Battle of Los Angeles
Rivalry week? More like rivalry weak.
The City of Angels belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Always has. Always will, apparently.
The Los Angeles Clippers would like there to be more of a rivalry between the two franchises. Until they start winning some meaningful games, however, they will always be considered the proverbial little brother who looks up to his more successful older sibling.
Such was the case, once again, on Wednesday night. SLAMonline was in the house at Staples Center, of course, to witness the Clippers potentially come of age in this one. It didn’t happen. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum made sure of that much in a 113-108 victory, despite Blake Griffin providing a couple of highlight-reel worthy dunks on Pau Gasol. One in each half.
“We’re trying to make it a rivalry,” said coach Vinny Del Negro, who was bombarded by questions from reporters about yet another Clippers failure during the post-game news conference. “I don’t think it’s a rivalry right now. We have to play well. We have to win basketball games to make it a rivalry. The Lakers’ success speaks for itself. We’re trying to start something here, it’s the beginning of the process for us. A big test for us, no question.”
The writing was on the wall for the Clippers.
If ever there was a time to step up, it was now.
Both teams call Staples Center home, their locker rooms feet away from each other, down a corridor in the belly of the building. This time around, however, the Lakers were the visitors. There was a buzz in the facility, decked out floor to ceiling in Clippers colors.
Questions still remained. Was the moment too big for Chris Paul and his cohorts?
In retrospect, it was as if big brother was nice, for once. He let little brother borrow the keys to the car for a night out with his date, only to show up with a bunch of his buddies later and pull a prank to spoil things just when the youngster finally got the nerve to make his move.
“There’s a lot of haters out there,” Bynum said. “A lot of Clipper fans coming out of wood-works.”
Nothing like stoking the flame a little bit in the family rivalry.
Griffin and Paul, seemingly with spray paint in hand, appeared ready to do a some good old fashioned graffiti work on the block of Bryant & Co., nevertheless. An all-important win in front of a national television audience, thanks to the ESPN camera crews, would’ve been statement-making and tightened things up in the Western Conference playoff race.
It wasn’t meant to be. Not on this night. Not with big brother watching. He could sense that something was up. Accordingly, little brother was put in his place.
Bynum added 36 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
“We have to learn how to win these games, and close these out,” Paul said. “I think it was a good learning process for us. Down the stretch, everyone in the gym knows where the ball is going at both ends of the court. We have to find ways to manage it. Unfortunately, we didn’t tonight.”
If the Playoffs started today, the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks would meet. The Clippers, who are 2.5 games back in the standings, would play the Memphis Grizzlies. More importantly, the two would be on opposite sides of the bracket and likely not meet again until next season.
So much for the whole rivalry thing. Right out the window.
Big brother would have the bragging rights for another year.
The Clippers had their moments, mind you. Griffin in particular. He dunked on Gasol. Not once. But twice. It was a poster party and Griffin was making sure fans, regardless of whether they were Clippers or Lakers, walked out of the place pleased. Job well done, for the record.
“You don’t really see what happened,” Gasol said. “It was quick, a hit-and-run kind of thing, right? The ball went in, I was on my ass, I woke up, I stood up and told the referee I had a (expletive that rhymes with ducking) forearm on my face, on my throat. That’s something that needs to be looked at. But it happened too quick. I didn’t realize.”
Paul was on point and finished with 22 points and 16 assists.
Caron Butler scored 23 of his 28 points in the first half alone.
These were signs that little brother is starting to mature. Coming into his own, if you will.
Getting over the hump and claiming family superiority will have to wait for the Clippers.
So will the rivalry.
The Lakers own Los Angeles.
Always have. Always will, apparently.