There have been 230 meetings between the Los Angeles Clippers (in their different guises) and the Los Angeles Lakers, with the latter winning 150 of those matchups. However, that 150th win came way back on July 30th, 2020, inside the NBA Bubble. So, what has happened since then?
There’s no getting away from the fact that, in the past decade, the two teams successes – or lack thereof – have been measured up against one another. Sharing a home means the Clippers in particular have always had to operate under the shadows of the banners hanging in rafters of the arena formerly known as STAPLES Center, with the Lakers’ 17 championships emblazoned across them. However, there have been spells in the past 10 years when the Purple and Gold have had to watch on from the outside as a lottery team while their cross-court rivals consistently made the playoffs.
The Clippers’ biggest streak during that time was 11 wins between January 10th, 2014, until December 25th, 2016. Their latest win was their sixth consecutively against the Lakers, though it was the second in a row that you could argue in advance they should’ve been the underdogs for. When Kawhi Leonard snubbed LeBron James and Anthony Davis to rival them by teaming up with Paul George on the other squad in L.A., fans would’ve expected to see the two heavyweights slugging it out to be the best in the west. Instead, what has transpired has been one side prospering while the other peters out.
In the Bubble, the Clippers were of course the ones with all the questions to answer. Doc Rivers’ team completely flattered to deceive as they let a 3-1 lead over Denver slip to seal a second round exit. The team were at loggerheads and the coach got fired. Meanwhile, the Lakers did what their rivals couldn’t by beating the Nuggets in five and got their chips with dips to round off the weirdest season ever. Since then, though, they have struggled to hit those same heights. Injuries have plagued them, as doubts over the durability of Davis haven’t gone away and subsequent changes to the roster haven’t put them any closer to their goals. The appointment of Ty Lue has significantly shifted the needle towards this side of the 213, with his team reaching the conference finals last year for the first time in their history and now sitting 2.5 games ahead on .500 with more than an eye still on securing a playoff spot before their two stars return.
Friday night’s win felt like a big step towards that. This group of Clippers seem to love overcoming the Lakers, but last night had that something extra special about it and it showed in their post-game reactions. Our spiritual leader Reggie Jackson said of the win: “We all understand that we have to just do our part until those guys come back. I don’t wanna put no pressure on them, but I told them we’re gonna hold it down till they get back and then they definitely owe me some hardware. We’re gonna do our part to keep it going and then put it back on their shoulders. We know the light’s at the end of the tunnel at some point. We don’t know necessarily when it’s coming, but we can still see it.”
"I don't want to put no pressure on them... We're gonna hold it down till they get back but they definitely — I don't know what everybody else is gonna say, but they owe me some hardware when they get back."— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 26, 2022
Reggie Jackson on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pic.twitter.com/QacxRVqzdv
The above not only shows the spirit of the team to fight without their two best players, but also that they’re all still hopeful of making the playoffs so that they can still contend for a championship if and when the big return comes around. The Lakers, on the other hand, will feel that this loss was the latest hammer blow to their chances of achieving what they set out to at the start of this season. The construction of their veteran roster, one which was supposed to have all the experience and nous to tip the scales in their favour, has lacked depth and relied too heavily upon the health of James and Davis, as well as the remaining star quality of Russell Westbrook, all of which have proven to be patchy at best.
Thus, the battle of Los Angeles is starting to feel a little one-sided again. The Clippers can use these wins over their rivals as benchmarks while they continue to try and push for their ultimate goal. The Lakers, however, have some serious reshuffling to do before they can think about doing the same.