April 4, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
During what was otherwise a very good week for the Clippers, they were nonetheless unable to knock off the Lakers and secure the season series from their city rivals.
By any reasonable measure, the Clippers had a good week. What else can you say about a week where the team goes 3-1, with two road wins, including one over the defending NBA champs? All this, while outscoring their opponents by an average of almost 10 points per game. And this is a week in April in a playoff race we're talking about. The Clippers probably haven't had five weeks in their entire NBA existence that were this good, at least on paper.
But they couldn't land the big fish, win the biggest game. In a week with only one loss, the one loss was the game they truly wanted to win. Because a win over the Lakers would have given them the first season series victory over their intra-city rivals in 20 years. And that season series victory isn't just about bragging rights -- it also represents the first tie-breaker in playoff seedings and home court advantage, meaning that if the Lakers and Clippers wind up with identical records at the end of the season, the Lakers will get the lower seed and the advantages that come with it.
|Field Goal %:||46.7%|
|True Shooting %:||53.2%|
|Effective FG %:||51.9%|
|Tuesday: Clippers 94, Mavericks 75|
|Wednesday: Lakers 113, Clippers 108|
|Thursday: Clippers 93, Kings 85|
|Saturday: Clippers 109, Kings 94|
It almost went the other way. In a hard-fought and highly entertaining game, the Lakers led almost the entire way, but the Clippers battled back to take a one-point lead with four minutes remaining. But Kobe Bryant, as he so often does, sank a contested jumper with 24 seconds left to seal the victory for the Lakers, and the Clippers missed out on a huge opportunity.
The game was not without Clipper highlights though. In fact, years from now when few remember or care who actually won the game, we'll be watching Clipper highlights from this game. That's because Blake Griffin posterized Pau Gasol not once but twice in the same game. First with a monster putback over Pau's back, and later with a one-handed stuff in Gasol's face (and Blake was literally in Pau's face with his left forearm). Both dunks were nasty, and coming as they did in the Battle of L.A., will only serve to make these games even more intense in the future.
Before their loss to the Lakers, the Clippers traveled to Dallas to face the defending champion Mavericks, who had won 10 straight home games against the LAC. In a game in which Randy Foye tied a franchise record with eight three-pointers, the Clippers led wire-to-wire in a blowout victory. Every time the Mavericks would make a mini run and threaten to get back into the game, Foye would hit another triple to beat them back down. It was an impressive win, and at the time ran the Clippers' win streak to seven games.
At the end of the week, to bounce back from the Lakers loss, the Clippers strung together consecutive wins over the Sacramento Kings in a home-and-home set. The first game, in Sacramento, was a bit of a struggle, but three consecutive baskets from Griffin in the final minutes turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead and the Clippers held on to win. Then in the second meeting Griffin scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Foye made seven more threes, in leading the Clippers to an easy victory.
Amazingly, after falling behind the Lakers by 2.5 games as a result of the Wednesday loss, the Clippers actually gained ground on the Lakers on the week. That because the purple and gold lost back-to-back games at the end of the week as the Clippers were sweeping the Kings. As a result, the Clippers and Lakers are now tied in the loss column, each with 22. With Kobe Bryant ailing and Andrew Bynum behaving erratically, not to mention the number of games against very good teams left for the Lakers, the Pacific Division is still very much up for grabs.
The week marked a bit of a milestone for the Clippers. By winning their 34th game against 22 losses, the Clippers assured themselves of a winning record in this lockout shortened season. It is only their third winning record in the 28 years since moving to L.A.
For now, the Clippers should concern themselves foremost with maintaining their spot in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. That's because fifth-place Memphis is only a game back in the loss column, and is probably the second-hottest team in the league right now (it's either Memphis or the Clippers at any rate). The Clippers begin a very tough road trip Monday night, against those self same Grizzlies. From there they head to Oklahoma City to play the mighty Thunder, and from there to Minneapolis to face a Timberwolves team that has swept the three meetings between the two teams this season. If the Clippers want to keep the pressure on the Lakers, they need to avoid a disastrous 0-3 trip -- 1-2 would make life pretty difficult as well, but 2-1 would be an excellent result. With only 10 games left in the season, every game is huge now.
For more news and notes on the Clippers, be sure to read Clips Nation.