There’s loads of animosity between the NBA’s two Los Angeles groups, however it could hardly be truthful to name the Lakers and Clippers rivals. After all, one group has 17 championships and the opposite has none. The Lakers and Clippers have by no means confronted off in a postseason collection, and so they’ve solely even made the postseason in the identical yr eight occasions. For most of basketball historical past, the Lakers have contended whereas the Clippers have tanked, and the second the Clippers have been prepared to hitch them on prime of the mountain, the Lakers tumbled again all the way down to Earth.
The summer season of 2019 was alleged to lastly give us the fabled streetlights vs. spotlights rivalry. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George spurned the Lakers for the Clippers. The little brother was the championship favourite… after which blew a 3-1 result in a Nuggets group that the Lakers beat on their solution to the 2020 title. Injuries depleted the 2 groups from there. For all the opening night time and Christmas showdowns, the Lakers and Clippers have nonetheless by no means actually managed to play a really significant sport with vital stakes for either side.
Well, that is about to vary. On Wednesday, the Clippers will “host” the Lakers for what’s shaping as much as be crucial sport the 2 have ever performed in opposition to each other. For the primary time on this non-rivalry’s historical past, each the Lakers and Clippers are all-in on successful the championship proper now, and each the Lakers and Clippers will badly must win this sport to set themselves up to take action.
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The Lakers have by no means led the Clippers within the standings this season. In truth, the Clippers have led the Lakers by as many as 6.5 video games this season, however fortune has slowly shifted in favor of the purple and gold ever since. The Lakers acquired wholesome. The Clippers caught the harm bug. The Lakers dumped Russell Westbrook and soared. The Clippers signed Russell Westbrook and noticed firsthand why the Lakers have been so keen to maneuver him within the first place.
They enter Wednesday night time’s showdown tied within the standings at 41-38. There is a really actual likelihood that the group that loses on Wednesday will get caught combating for a postseason berth within the play-in spherical. The victor will sit within the prime six.
There are, in fact, no ensures right here. The convention is so condensed that different groups may push the victor down or prop the loser up. But the Clippers know effectively simply how scary the play-in spherical might be. They have been eradicated final season after they misplaced there twice. Anything can occur in a single sport, notably for groups as injury-prone as these two.
And if something, the narrative stakes are better than the sensible ones. Trading Westbrook saved the Lakers’ season. A deep postseason run with out him would solely additional validate the concept that he’s now not able to enjoying a big function on a group with championship ambitions. An early Clippers exit could be the ultimate nail in that coffin. It’s no secret that Lakers followers soured on Westbrook shortly, and he voiced his frustrations with them publicly on numerous events. There could possibly be no better revenge for him than knocking the Lakers again into the play-in morass they have been attempting to flee with out him.
It is not fairly the Western Conference Finals showdown we have been promised in 2019, nevertheless it’s nearly extra applicable. The NBA’s fiercest non-rivalry does not fairly deserve the postseason stage, however that does not imply its biggest sport does not warrant the highlight the Clippers so notoriously keep away from. The Lakers and Clippers have given us 4 many years of meaningless basketball, but when they’re ever going to type a real, high-stakes rivalry, Wednesday looks like nearly as good a spot as any to start out.
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