Although we still have two-thirds of the season to play, it has already presented some unfamiliar situations for long-suffering fans of the Los Angeles Clippers. For instance, how do you behave as a lifelong fan of underdogs when by most metrics your team is suddenly the best in the NBA?
Last night's game between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors presented a more practical dilemma. The Lakers are the marquee franchise in the entire league and the team that has kept the Clippers in the shadows for their entire Los Angeles existence, almost 30 years. But the Lakers have struggled this season and are already eight games behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division standings. The Warriors on the other hand have been playing great, even without center Andrew Bogut, who figures to raise the team to an even higher level when (or is it if?) he returns to the lineup. As of the start of last night's game, the Warriors were just two and a half games back of the Clippers, by far the most immediate threat in the division.
So whom to root for in a Lakers-Warriors matchup? Does a good citizen of Clips Nation follow the general rule of thumb: my favorite team is the Clippers and my second favorite team is whoever is playing the Lakers? Or should one take a more expeditious approach to the current situation and root for a Lakers win to create some separation with the Warriors in the standings? Depending on your philosophical bent, it was either a lose-lose situation or a win-win. Regardless of the outcome, one Clippers rival was going to win and another was going to lose.
When the game came down to the final possession or regulation, I found myself rooting for the Warriors of course. As a fan of underdogs in general, it's hard not to revel in the Lakers current misery, and likewise it's nice to see the Dubs playing well. Unfortunately it was not to be as the Lakers prevailed in overtime. So I'll just have to take solace in the fact that the Clippers now enjoy a three game division lead, four games in the loss column, over Golden State.
Both the Lakers and the Warriors have been dealing with significant injuries. The Lakers got Steve Nash back last night and have their "big four" together for the first time since Halloween, but are still a long ways away from full strength as Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all continue to work their way back from injuries. Whether the Lakers can get anywhere close to the level of play that most people expected from them this season is far from clear at this point.
The Warriors on the other hand have been terrific, and still sit at 18-10 despite last night's loss -- all more or less without Bogut. A few seasons ago, before a series of injuries, Bogut was arguably the second best center in the entire NBA -- if he can return this season at anything close to that level a very good Dubs team will get much better.
The Clippers have ruled the first trimester, but these two division rivals could still make things uncomfortable for them as the very long NBA season continues. And let's face it, the question that began this post was always rhetorical -- of course you root against the Lakers.