Is Lakers-Clippers a Rivalry Yet?

Most lopsided rivalries in NBA history | BetAmerica Extra
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NBA fans are aware of the story-lines behind most games they watch. This can be from player quotes to trade rumours. All of this only makes the game more interesting.

There is something that takes that to another level in sports, and that’s rivalries. In the NBA there are some famous ones that always come up in conversation. Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics. 90’s Chicago Bulls vs New York Knicks. More recently, Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors.

Rivalries are predominantly formed as a result of intense battles during the playoffs. As Kobe Bryant famously said: “rivalries are made in the playoffs, not in the regular season”.

But what about the Los Angeles Clippers?

Considering that the history that surrounds the Lakers and Clippers, they may have one of the most intense rivalries in the NBA even though these teams have never met in the postseason.

The Lakers and Clippers have met 157 times, with the Lakers winning 103 of those meetings. But as they say, numbers don’t tell the whole story, and when it comes to these two teams, that could not be truer.

The Lakers’ history is well documented: the championships, the glory, the great coaches, the iconic players, and the star-studded crowd that shows up to cheer them on every night.

Los Angeles Lakers: A look back at the 2009 NBA Finals
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The Clippers on the other hand have always stood in the shadow of the aforementioned. When the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984 after six seasons in San Diego, the Lakers had won 8 championships, 18 conference titles, and 8 division titles. Furthermore, when the Clippers made the move to LA, they weren’t good. They didn’t make the playoffs until 1991, a season where they saw 3 different coaches on the sideline.

To this point, the word “rivalry” doesn’t exactly come to mind. However, the Clippers started to considerably improve their roster a few years after moving into Staples Center in 1999. By 2010 they had players like Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and a decent coach in Vinny Del Negro.

Then, after David Stern vetoed a trade in 2011 that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, citing “basketball reasons”, the Clippers got him. With that trade, the Clippers became relevant again and “Lob City” was born. Along with a rivalry that was beginning to brew.

The Clippers became an exciting team to watch and paired with the fact that the Lakers’ championship years were starting to look like a thing of the past, and with Kobe Bryant’s prime starting to fade, Clipper Nation gained some momentum. The team had a cult following and media attention like never before.

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After the vetoed trade, it seems that every time the Lakers and Clippers met, it felt like a playoff game. Every possession was hard-fought, Bryant would be vintage, Chris Paul would be aggressive, and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would fly to catch lobs. The crowd would be into it from start to finish. From 2011 to 2013, every game was about how Staples Center was still the home to the Lakers, how LA was Lakers County, how Chris Paul and the league would forever regret vetoing that trade, and how Bryant was still the alpha male in town. Regardless of the high-flying Clippers roster.

Then the roles reversed. In 2013 Dr. Jerry Buss passed away. That same year Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles, effectively ending his prime. The Lakers coaching staff became a mess and so did the front office. While the Clippers had some turmoil of their own with the Donald Sterling drama, they came out of it in a better place. They gained Steve Ballmer, and were for the most part an organization on the road to dominance.

After what seems like some back and forth of relevance and talent, the teams finally got on the same page. The Lakers have their powerful combo in Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Along with a commendable supporting cast, including the likes of Danny Green, a motivated Dwight Howard and great vets such as Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley and Rajon Rondo.

The Clippers, on the other hand, have two of the best players in the league in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Added to a team that made the playoffs last year and went 48-34 during the regular season without a single all-star on their roster.

Lakers game against Clippers on Tuesday is postponed – Orange ...
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So, even though these teams have never met in the playoffs and the jury is still out on whether they have a real rivalry or not. We can all agree that NBA fans will enjoy an intense, star-studded game every time this teams meet. 

Luckily, the NBA is back and hopefully, we won’t have to wait long for what will be the first playoff clash between the two LA teams. Maybe, just maybe, after that first one everyone will undoubtedly agree that these teams do have a rivalry and it’s one of the most exciting ones the league has ever seen.


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Lakers-Clippers, a Fierce Rivalry Beckons

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When one suggests a Los Angeles LakersLos Angeles Clippers rivalry, fans of the purple and gold have been quick to quell the thought. Such suggestions are met with familiar refrains such as: “we have 16 championships and the Clippers have none” or “when was the last time the Clippers even made it to the Conference Finals, much less the NBA finals?”.

Laker fans have brought up the Clippers’ past ownership of Donald Sterling, where the team boasted mostly laughable seasons between 1981-2014. In that time, the positive years for the franchise were only as a result of the NBA’s nixing of a Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, that resulted in the “Lob City” years, alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

However, when one contemplates the recipe for a rivalry, the Lakers and Clippers should be considered foes soon, if not right now. Think about what actually makes for a good rivalry. In reviewing many of the great sports rivalries, they generally have all of, or most of the following:

  • Meaningful post-season encounters
  • Regular meetings
  • Geographical proximity
  • Bad blood between fans
  • On-the-court instances of bad blood
  • Competition for similar resources
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Meaningful post-season encounters is clearly the only lacking ingredient. The Lakers and Clippers have never met in the playoffs. Both franchises have rarely been good enough at the same time for this to even be a possibility. Additionally, the Clippers have not exactly been pillars of playoff success to this point in their history. Even with their “Lob City” golden years, the team never advanced beyond the second round.

During much of that time, the Lakers have had one of the worst records in the NBA, not making the playoffs for the past six seasons. However, with the purple and gold now having a core of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and a deep team surrounding them, and the Clippers having Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the two are set to meet in the post-season very soon.

While the ingredient of competition in meaningful post-season encounters has not historically been present, this promises to change in the near future, you would think.

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As far as regular meetings and geographical proximity, this potential rivalry is as strong as it gets. Both teams literally share an arena in the same city and are both in the Pacific Division which guarantees regular meetings. As such, the two teams have the familiarity needed to foster a meaningful rivalry.

In addition, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on August 2 that the Lakers and Clippers were set for a mouthwatering 2019 Christmas Day showdown. On August 3, Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news that both would face off in the opening game of the season (Oct 22). Both promise to be special occasions in the battle for Los Angeles, and depending on the results of course, memorable ones.

Some may argue that there is no true bad blood between fans. While this may have been the case in the past because the two franchises have not exactly been on any kind of equal footing, recent events have changed this. Twitter may not be an accurate view of fan-bases in general, but it does facilitate discussion with some of the more passionate aspects of a fan-base. And one best believe there is heated chatter back and forth between both sets of fans.

Laker fans have been quick to try and dismiss the Clippers as viable rivals due to their lack of post-season success. Clipper fans have tweaked Laker fans for living in the past. Just look at the reaction to posts about or from “Clipper Darrell”. And then, of course, there was that recent video of Laker fans taunting Kawhi Leonard as he was walking about the city. Clearly, as much as either fan base may not want to admit, the fans have become, and are becoming, more heated towards each other every day.

On-the-court instances of bad blood is arguably something lacking in a Lakers-Clippers rivalry. There is no one moment of heated confrontation that really comes to mind. However, there was an instance between the Kobe BryantPau Gasol Lakers and the first year of the “Lob City” Clippers. This was in 2012, where the teams were involved in an on-court skirmish where multiple technicals were issued after Gasol touched Chris Paul on the head.

Again in 2012, Gasol clashed with Blake Griffin after a forearm dunk from Griffin knocked Gasol to the floor. This was six years ago though and there hasn’t been much else in the way of on-court bad blood since.

It could also be argued that the Clippers turning the tables on the Lakers in terms of head-to-head success in recent years should be enough to foster on-court bad blood. Since 2012, the Clippers have won the season series either 4-0 or 3-1, until last season where they tied 2-2.

Ultimately, the ingredient of competition for similar resources is the strongest of the rivalry ingredients, at least as of late. The Clippers were the recipient of Chris Paul rather than the Lakers back in 2012. Jerry West was a Lakers on-court and front office icon. Now, he’s helping the Clippers land key free agents. The Clippers were said to be among several teams in terms of a potential trade destination for Anthony Davis, before he made his intentions clear that he wished to go to the Lakers. The Lakers lost a head-to-head battle with the Clippers for the prize free agent of 2019, in Kawhi Leonard.

The Lakers felt that they “got played” by Leonard according to a report by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Some believe the Lakers felt “played” because Leonard never meant to choose them all along. Rather, some felt that Leonard used the Lakers as leverage in order to pressure the Clippers to trade for another star. Or, worse yet, some believe that maybe Leonard delayed his free agency decision in order to sabotage the Lakers’ chances at landing other free agent stars that were available earlier on in free agency, such as D’Angelo Russell or Jimmy Butler.

Add to that the fact that Paul George, a coveted free agent prospect for the Lakers in 2018, failed to give the Lakers so much as a meeting before deciding to re-sign in Oklahoma City before demanding a trade to… the Clippers just one year later. Leonard also reportedly moved the location of a free agency meeting with the Lakers in order to secretly meet with George to presumably talk about teaming up.

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Like it or not, the Clippers are a franchise to be taken seriously as competition to the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Lakers’ front office situation has been volatile of late while the Clippers’ have been so beyond reproach, executives are deciding to stay rather than get promotions elsewhere. While Laker fans are quick to bring up the teams’ respective pasts, these same fans are in danger of succumbing to the same Lakers exceptionalism that the franchise itself has become victim to all too frequently.

The Lakers franchise has fallen into trouble expecting their past achievements to equal current success. Fans are also in danger of underestimating a foe in the Clippers that is currently as formidable as any Laker foe of years past. The only thing missing is for both franchises to be good at the same time. This season promises to bring a change in this respect, and with it, a change in perspective from Laker fans.

Like it or not, the Clippers and Lakers will be rivals soon, if they are not rivals already.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)

The Race for the Playoffs: Comparing Schedules

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As the race for the 2019 NBA Playoffs heats up, the Los Angeles Lakers look to sneak into the postseason standings, along with the Sacramento Kings who hold similar aspirations. Whilst the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz look to maintain their positions, to give the playoffs a crack.

No team has an ‘easy’ schedule in the remaining games after the All-Star break. It will most likely go down to consistency and who can pick up wins against the teams around them in the standings. Below, we take a look at the schedules of the teams fighting for playoff contention in the Western Conference.

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Utah Jazz:

The Utah Jazz are currently in-amongst a tough part of their schedule. Shortly before the All-Star break they lost to the Golden State Warriors and most recently fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, both in close fashion. The next 4 games for the Jazz includes the Clippers, as well as the high-flying Nuggets and Bucks.

The schedule does get considerably easier for Utah from then on, as they take on the likes of the Pelicans, Suns, and the Wizards multiple times. The Jazz take on the Lakers twice in the last 8 games of the season. Whilst also facing playoff hopefuls, the Kings and Clippers in that time too.

This is a team that plays hard and are capable of going on long winning streaks. They can battle toe-to-toe with the best, and considering that they do the business against the lesser teams in the league, we expect them to be in the postseason.

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San Antonio Spurs:

Currently occupying the 7th seed in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs lost most recently to the Toronto Raptors. The next three games present an opportunity for the Spurs to get back to winning ways, with games against the Knicks, Nets, and Pistons.

The Spurs’ schedule does not look the most difficult on paper, but does present tough games in deuces. To name a few, the Spurs take on the likes of the Thunder and Nuggets, the Trail Blazers and Warriors, the Rockets and Celtics, all in pairs within the final 25 games. Whilst you can never put a Gregg Popovich side down, we suspect that if San Antonio make the playoffs, it’ll probably involve crawling over the finish line.

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Los Angeles Clippers:

Holding the final playoff spot, the Los Angeles Clippers are a team that hosts plenty of talent, even having traded away Tobias Harris to the Philadelphia 76ers shortly before the trade deadline. Many expect the Clippers to fall considerably down the rankings, giving up their playoff spot almost instantly. However, it appears that this may not be the case with recent reports suggesting that the team still have firm eyes on making the postseason.

The Clippers do host a relatively difficult next 10 games, taking on a lot of the teams around themselves, including the Jazz, Kings, and Lakers, with the Nuggets, Thunder, and Celtics mixed in there too. Given that they can get through those games relatively unharmed, the team will probably fancy their chances in the mid-part of the remaining schedule against the likes of the Cavs (twice), Knicks, Timberwolves, and Grizzlies (who they have just beaten).

The final 4 games will be the telling point for the Clippers’ postseason aspirations, as they will have to battle against the Rockets, Lakers, Warriors, and Jazz. It looks like it could honestly go either way for the Clippers, it depends whether they stand strong or go on a lengthy losing streak, allowing the Kings and Lakers to capitalise.

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Sacramento Kings:

Obviously, for the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers to capitalise, they have to take care of business themselves. Easier said than done.

The Kings are currently involved in a tough stretch of their schedule, having lost to the Nuggets before the All-Star break and the Warriors last time out, both games by just 2 points. It doesn’t get any easier for the team, as they travel to Oklahoma next. Shortly after that, they take on the Bucks, Clippers, Celtics (twice), and 76ers.

Sacramento does have the opportunity to rack up the wins against the Bulls, Nets, Mavericks, and the Suns in the following games, before taking on the Lakers on the 25th March. The team finish the season with a reasonable final 4 games against the Cavs, Jazz, Pelicans, Trail Blazers.

The Kings are obviously a young talented bunch with Fox, Bagley III, and Heild, who have proved that they can keep it close against tough opponents. However, 14 of their final 25 games are on the road, and we do expect them to run out of steam. Inexperience may kick in at some point and put the playoffs out of reach. Sacramento do hold the longest playoff drought in the current NBA , having last made the playoffs back in 2006. They would love to make the playoffs over the Lakers, so the motivation will be there, for sure.

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Los Angeles Lakers:

It’s not going to be easy for the Los Angeles Lakers to make the postseason. Currently, the team are 3 games behind the playoff spots, and according to Tankathon.com, the Lakers have the ninth-toughest remaining schedule with opponents averaging a .520 win percentage. 16 of the final 25 games of the season are against teams in playoff spots across the two conferences, 13 of the games are on the road also.

With a huge win against the Houston Rockets, spirits were raised instantly. The Lakers do need to keep the momentum going as they face the Pelicans (twice), Grizzlies, Bucks, and Suns in the next 5 games. This presents an opportunity to close the gap on the playoff places as early as March 3rd, given that they pick up wins.

Over the remainder of the schedule, the Lakers have to tackle many high-flyers including; the Nuggets, Thunder, Raptors, Bucks (again), Warriors, and Trail Blazers, as well as the Celtics, Jazz, and Clippers (twice) being sandwiched in amongst. The last five games of the season look horrific for Laker fans, as the team faces the Thunder, Warriors, Clippers, Jazz, and Trail Blazers in a row.

LeBron James has made the NBA Finals for the past eight straight seasons, and now he faces uncertainty whether his Lakers team will even make the playoffs. The last time James missed the playoffs was in the 2004/05 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, if the team can rediscover the form that they had before James got injured, they could very well rise to the challenge and make the postseason, against the odds.


By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)

The Lakers Snatch a Late Victory against City Rivals

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Last night’s victory over city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, was certainly not one for the faint-hearted. With the Lakers blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, to take victory in overtime, 123-120. We also saw the welcomed return of LeBron James from a 17-game absence, who recorded 24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists, in the win.

The first quarter was heavily contested, as expected from two teams fighting for post-season honours. The Lakers were hot from three-point land early on to close out the quarter with a six-point lead. As the match progressed, it became evidently clear that fatigue was kicking in for James, after 5-weeks on the sidelines. Careless turnovers caused a second-quarter slump in which ex-Laker Lou Williams took full advantage, as Lou Williams does. Causing the Clippers to bridge the gap in the scoreline to 54-53 going into the half.

Up step the king. LeBron James grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half. Doing work in the post, we were treated to a few of James’ iconic fade-aways. The Lakers were rampant, tallying up a 14-point lead in what seemed like a certain victory. However, it was not meant to be, Lou Williams (again) and Patrick Beverley provided some key plays down the stretch as the Clippers attempted a late comeback.

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A comeback that was complete when Tobias Harris knocked down a vital three-pointer to tie the scores at 118 and take the game into overtime. Who other than LeBron James started the scoring in the final frame, before Lance Stephenson stamped his authority on the game, driving to the hoop nailing a floater. Lance initiated contact from 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic for a three-point play, he completed this from the free-throw line to keep the Lakers ahead 123-118 for the victory.

The Lakers recorded their 27th victory of the season, to go within 1 game of #8 in the Western Conference, of whom the Clippers current occupy. Make them dance Lance (Stephenson) knocked down 5 three-pointers in an impressive shooting night, scoring 20 points. Rajon Rondo scored down 14 points, adding 13 rebounds and 7 assists.

The Clippers had an off-night, shooting just 44% from the field and 32% from three. On the other hand, the Lakers nailed 45% of their field goals and an impressive 42% from beyond the arc. A negative was the 16 turnovers that the Lakers committed, something that we have seen way too much of this season.

LeBron James saw a surprising 40 minutes of action in his return from injury, who stated that he was not feeling particularly great after the game. We will have to keep an eye on this one and hope that his body reacts positively, as the Golden State Warriors await next.

By Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larson (@kwadwo_l)