In his final NBA Power Rankings of the season, ESPN's Marc Stein dropped the Los Angeles Lakers down three spots to finish the season at no. 8 and the Los Angeles Clippers dropped only one spot to no. 5, despite the Lakers being in position to win yet another Pacific Division crown.
Heading into the playoffs, Stein recognizes the flaws of the Clippers. Blake Griffin can't hit a free throw, Caron Butler is still battling injuries and there is limited playoff experience on the roster. But they still have someone named Chris Paul, a closer in the mold of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Surprised? Don't be. Paul has eight game-winning buckets in the last 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime in the last four seasons for a tie with Bryant and Anthony for the NBA's top closer over that span.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have been the best team in close games all season due to the late-game prowess of Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The Lakers are 6-1 in overtime games and lead the league in wins in games decided by three points or less (10). But the Lakers are still waiting to hear about the punishment awaiting Metta World Peace after his elbow of Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden.
Two LA teams in the playoffs. Two intriguing storylines. Two contenders. Too much excitement.