Sunday, April 7, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Clippers 109, Lakers 95
By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- It was the most important regular-season game in Los Angeles Clippers franchise history.
With a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Clippers would win their first Pacific Division title, clinch their first series sweep over the Lakers and claim the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
It also didn’t hurt that the game was at home and on national television.
For a team looking to change its image locally and around their league, the Clippers took a giant leap forward Sunday with their 109-95 win over the Lakers. It wasn't a shocking result. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers every time they have played this season and the margin of victory has been by over 13 points.
The Clippers are clearly the best team in Los Angeles this season. There are, however, no trophies for being the best team in the city. There may or may not be a banner for that honor but that's another story altogether.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Before the game, Chris Paul said he might have to be more aggressive than he usually is down the stretch and especially on Sunday against the Lakers. With Chauncey Billups out and the Clippers needing an extra scoring punch early, Paul scored seven points in the first quarter and finished with 24 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Paul knew how important it was for the Clippers to clinch the division at home against the Lakers and wasn't going to let the opportunity slide away while he tried to facilitate and get his teammates involved.
A Tribe Called Bench
The Clippers are at their best when their best is in a groove and involved early and that was the case Sunday as Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes made their presence felt in the first half with 23 points and finished with 32 points and five rebounds. It was a solid performance by the Clippers' two most consistent bench players on a day when they get next to nothing from Lamar Odom and Eric Bledsoe, who combined for just two points. Interestingly enough, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro shortened his rotation, only playing five players off the bench and really only leaning on three in the second half.
It had been a somewhat difficult week for Blake Griffin, who took some heat for his immaturity from the media. Griffin, however, responded with one of his most complete games of the season. He had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and essentially put the game away with a monster dunk followed by a three-pointer in the fourth quarter. Griffin said he didn't want the Clippers to hang a Pacific Division championship banner, that he had bigger goals for the team. The Clippers haven't made a decision on their division banner yet, but if they play the way they did Sunday, they could be hanging more than a division banner up at some point in the near future.