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Saturday, April 6, 2013
Clippers have chance for history vs. Lakers

By Ramona Shelburne

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Grant Hill was three years old the last time it happened. Chauncey Billups wasn't even born yet.

Yes, it has been a long time since the Clippers swept a season series from the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe Bryant
Matt Barnes, right, of the Clippers guards the Lakers' Kobe Bryant during a game in February.
Heck, the Los Angeles Clippers never have. You have to go back to the 1974-75 season when the Buffalo Braves swept the Lakers -- the only time in franchise history that has happened.

"Oh wow," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said Saturday, when informed of the possibility his Clippers team would be the first to sweep the Lakers since 1975 if they can beat their Staples Center rivals Sunday afternoon.

"See, there's all these storylines that make for a good game," Crawford said, smiling. "I think that'd be pretty cool. The Lakers have been so dominant for so long, and we're trying to make our mark now. They have a huge history, and we're trying to make our own history."

The Clippers have beaten the Lakers by an average of 13 points in their three wins this season. Their magic number to clinch a first Pacific Division title is down to one -- a win Sunday or a Golden State Warriors loss would do the trick.

Currently in their 43rd season, the Clippers are on the brink of the first division title in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only two other active franchises haven't won a division title -- the Grizzlies (currently in their 18th season) and the Bobcats (currently in their ninth season).

The Clippers have already set a franchise record for wins in a season with 50.

All things to feel good about, but all accomplishments that could be undercut if the team doesn't match or exceed its second-round playoff exit from a season ago.

And the Clippers haven't exactly been blowing away the competition lately. After winning a franchise-record 17 straight games in December, the Clippers are just 19-17 since.

They righted the ship with a win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, but their once-strong hold on the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference is gone. They now control their own destiny for only the No. 4 seed after the Lakers beat the fifth-place Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

"Our energy level has lacked," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said when asked why the team has struggled of late. "When we were playing well at the beginning of the season, we used our defense to create our offense.

"Lately, we haven't been playing good defense; they're putting the ball in the basket every time, and that's slowing down our transition opportunities."

Why has that energy been lacking?

"I don't know," Barnes said. "We may have hit a wall as a team mentally. Not physically. We've had some things go up and down, but we have to lock in right now."

A game against the Lakers could be just what the Clippers need. The game between the two L.A. rivals is always intense. This time, the Clippers have a chance to play spoiler and help keep the Lakers out of the playoffs.

The Lakers sit a half-game up on the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff berth, but the Jazz have the tiebreaker, so the Lakers need to finish a game ahead of them in the standings to make it. Including Sunday, the Lakers have just six games remaining.

"It'd be pretty weird not to see [the Lakers] in the playoffs," Crawford said. "But things happen."

Barnes wasn't taking his old team lightly, though.

"It's coming together. They're playing hard," he said of the Lakers. "They're playing a lot better defense. I've been watching some of their games, and they're playing a lot better defense."