Whose town is Los Angeles anyway? The Lakers’ with their 16 NBA titles and handfuls of players in the Hall of Fame? Or the Clippers’ – the new guys in town (1984 to be exact) with zero division titles and never a sniff of the finals?
Well, in seasons past this wasn’t even debatable. But in hoops, like everything else on this basketball-shaped planet, things change. LA is not Laker Town anymore – in 2013 it belongs to the Clips.
The 38-17 Clippers lead the Pacific Division by 6.5 games over second place Golden State and are 12 games ahead of Kobe & crew. In fact, with a win tonight coach Vinny del Negro’s squad can take the four-game season series from their Staples Center rivals. The last time the Clippers took the series from the Lakers was in 1992-1993.
The Clippers bested the Lake Show on November 2nd and January 4th by the respective scores of 105-95 and 107-102. 17th-year superstar Bryant had 40 and 38 in the two games, while the Clips’ leader PG Chris Paul dished out 15 and 13 dimes.
Coach Mike D’Antoni’s team is 25-28, but has seemingly righted their ship of late with five wins in their last seven games, six of which were on the road. Their most recent 48 was Tuesday in Phoenix, where Bryant only scored 4 points on 1 for 8 shooting, but dished out a game-high 9 assists in the victory. The much maligned Dwight Howard had 19 points and 18 boards in 41 minutes, and his recent shoulder issues seem to be on the mend.
LAC is operating at full strength with 16th-year combo guard “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups back after missing 49 games due to injury. The Clippers earned their third W in row when they beat the Rockets last night at home. They came out of the gate on fire and put up 46 first quarter points, the most points they’ve scored in a quarter since 1986. Blake Griffin had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 32 minutes. Best 1-guard in the NBA Chris Paul had 10 points, 11 dimes and 3 steals in 31 minutes.
Tune in tonight at 10:30 PM ET to TNT to watch four of the West’s five All-Star starters (Bryant, Howard, Griffin and Paul) battle for supremacy at Staples.