The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are not the Lakers and Clippers of old. One was formerly known as a less-than-stellar franchise, now a prominent contender. The other is a franchise sitting on a gilded legacy focused on rebuilding the future . Their status could not be more prevalent this weekend, where the Lakers went 0-3 and the Clippers went 2-0.
The Clippers came into the game on Friday without small forward Paul Pierce and forward Blake Griffin. The Lakers battled without Kobe Bryant, who has been earning an average of 15.9 points per game.
Griffin’s absence from the lineup has not deterred the Clippers; they are currently 15-3 without the 6’10” forward, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. However, Guard Chris Paul recognized Griffin’s presence will be needed for the team to survive the Playoffs.
“We can win games,” said Paul. “But we need 32 (Griffin) to win this championship.”
The Clippers’ bench would shine through, although the Lakers challenged them for three quarters. Their efforts echoed the final quarter of their previous meeting on Christmas, where the Lakers outscored the Clippers 27-9. Clarkson led in scoring with 9 points at the end of the first quarter with forward Wesley Johnson on his heels with 8 points.
“They have a really good team. They have guys that can spread the floor and make shots,” said Clarkson in regards to the Clippers.
When a dunk from forward Brandon Bass and a field goal from forward Larry Nance Jr. gave the Lakers a three-point lead, Guard Lance Stephenson began his reign of terror with a pair of free throws.
Stephenson racked up 16 points on Friday, he was one of the three bench members to make it in the double digits. The Clippers defeated the Lakers 105-93.
“[Stephenson] is great. He played with great energy. He had never played the four,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “Every night, we ask someone to play a different position and they are starting to like it.”
Despite the loss, forward Julius Randle put forth passionate effort, earning a double-double: 23 points and 14 rebounds, according to ESPN.
“I thought [Julius Randle] played really well. I thought his effort was great on both ends of the floor,” said Lakers head coach Byron Scott. “He still has some things he has to continue to focus on but I liked what I saw tonight.”
The Clippers had more depth, only Paul and Jordan played for over 30 minutes whereas most of the Lakers starting lineup stayed on the floor for 30 minutes or more. Williams and Randle stayed on the floor for 35 minutes each, five minutes longer than Jordan. Clarkson led all players in minutes with 36. Scott refused four players from competing, including championship player Metta World Peace.
The Clippers will travel to Florida to play the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat this weekend. The Lakers head south to battle the New Orleans Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs.