Clippers Face Lakers, Unfazed By Teams’ History

Rowan Kavner


PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – Head coach Doc Rivers knows the history. 

With 16 titles, 11 coming in Los Angeles, many associate STAPLES Center and L.A. basketball with the Lakers. The Clippers, with a budding squad and talented players looking to make history of their own, are still in search of their first championship.

But as the Lakers and Clippers get set to square off Wednesday at the arena both teams call home, trying to replicate the Lakers’ history isn’t Rivers’ concern.

“Our job is to win a title, not because of the Lakers,” Rivers said. “Our job is to win a title because we're the Clippers and we want to win a title as the Clippers. That's it. We're not going to catch them in the next 16 years for sure. It's going to be hard to do that. They’ve got a head start, one hell of a head start right now.”

The history is in the Lakers’ favor. The present and future are another story.

The Clippers are coming off three straight playoff appearances, the most recent a trip to the Western Conference semifinals. The Lakers have one playoff appearance in their last three seasons, but are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and in the midst of another.

But as Rivers attempts to change the culture of the Clippers, he doesn’t blame the Lakers’ faithful for bringing up the past.

“They do have the history, and they should celebrate it,” Rivers said. “They can talk about it. That doesn’t bother me at all. They do it a lot in Boston. They do it, probably, I don’t know in Dallas with football, but somewhere.”

Blake Griffin said no one can take away the Lakers’ 16 championships, but right now the Clippers are worried about right now and can’t think about the past.

While Lakers’ and Clippers’ fans may argue about allegiances as the two teams get set to face off, DeAndre Jordan’s focus is on a much bigger goal.

“If we’re worried about beating the Lakers, then we’re in trouble,” Jordan said. “We’re not just trying to beat them.”

LAST TIME OUT

Hawks 107, Clippers 98 – Once again, the Clippers held a lead against the Hawks. And once again, for the second time this year, the Clippers failed to close the deal against an Atlanta squad that now leads the East and has won 19 of its last 21 games. The Clippers couldn’t pull out the win, coughing up a season-high 21 turnovers, despite double-doubles from DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

Trail Blazers 98, Lakers 94 - The Lakers were in solid position against one of the West’s best squads. Then, Damian Lillard happened. The Lakers led by six with fewer than five minutes left. Then Lillard hit a 3-pointer as part of his 39-point night and helped guide a late surge from Portland, which hit its free throws late to take down a Lakers team playing without Kobe Bryant, who was sitting on the second game of a back-to-back.  

NOTEWORTHY MATCHUP

Kobe Bryant vs. Clippers’ defenders – Bryant rested the Lakers’ last game, but it’s likely he gives it a go against the Clippers. Since returning from a brief hiatus, Bryant’s averaging fewer attempts and a higher percentage than his average per game this year. Since taking three games off, Bryant’s hit at least 40 percent of his shots in each of his last four games. Still, he’s capable of shooting at any point and going off at any point, and he’ll need to be a focus after some lapses in play defensively for the Clippers on the perimeter.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

Kobe Playing? The first question should probably be whether or not Bryant suits up, after missing the Lakers’ last game to rest and getting Christmas week off to rest. But it’s likely Bryant plays, and it’s not a question at all to Rivers.

“He’ll play,” Rivers said. “Are you kidding me?”

Hitting 100 – The Lakers are the second worst team in the league in defensive efficiency, better only than the Knicks. As much as the Clippers are looking to tighten up their defense, they haven’t suffered on that end quite like the Lakers, who are nearly allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. The Clippers scored 118 points in the first matchup between these teams, but the usually offensively-potent Clippers have only scored 100 points in one of their last three games. 

NOTES

Wesley Johnson injured his hip and missed the Lakers’ last game…Even without Johnson, the Lakers have five players averaging double-digit scoring…The Clippers are 16-3 against sub-.500 teams…The Clippers beat the Lakers, 118-111, in their second game of the season…The Lakers are allowing opponents to shoot 38.2 percent form 3-point range…The Clippers are second in the league with a 38.5 3-point percentage… 

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