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No more battles in L.A.: Three takeaways from Clippers-Lakers

LeBron James will win the war to be the NBA’s leading scorer, but Kawhi Leonard and company are winning all the battles in L.A.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley battle it out, but the Clippers come out on top for a 10th straight win over the Lakers.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers showed what it should look like when it all comes together, as they downed the Los Angeles Lakers 133-115 on their own floor.

Ty Lue’s squad had 77 points by half time and, though the home team made a late LeBron James-inspired run to keep themselves within touching distance, this game was only ever going one way – same as it ever was.

Here are the takeaways from another successful Clipper conquest in the ‘Battle Of LA’…

A non-rivalry

That win means Coach Lue has yet to lose to the Lakers since he took a leading role with their rival franchise in 2020, and it marks a 10th straight victory for the Clippers over their neighbors. Of course, as expressed by TNT announcers Brian Anderson and Stan van Gundy on the broadcast, this battle ceased to be close some time ago.

Kawhi Leonard and company continue to be the side that look as though they can trouble the Western Conference, even in spite of having a turbulent first half of the season. They’re now trending in the right direction, and Tuesday’s win could come to represent something of a statement as they won their third straight game to move up to fifth seed.

Though the Lakers have won a championship in that time and deserve credit for doing so in such tough circumstances, retrospectively it was one successful campaign among a series of bad ones. They still have some way to go to fix that roster, though the pickup of Rui Hachimura was a positive step, which brings into question the timelines of their current biggest star…

The Answer

It was fitting that Robert Covington was pictured in a Georgetown University Allen Iverson jersey postgame, because currently Leonard is ‘The Answer’ to many of the Clippers perceived problems or question marks. It’s not on him alone, of course; with guys like Paul George, Norman Powell and Terance Mann continuing to impress, while others such as Reggie Jackson and Covington himself show signs of getting their confidence back as key members of the rotation.

However, Kawhi is still clearly the guy that brings the X-factor, and he stood head and shoulders above everybody – even getting the win over the obvious exception of a certain 38-year-old showing little sign of winding down – on a confidence-boosting night for his team. Despite not hitting a single shot from three-point land in this one, it was his midrange game that made all the difference and it will be a key weapon if this franchise is to see any success in the postseason.

Health is of course the biggest question that remains, but there were deeper questions about Leonard’s future that he has now firmly put to bed…

Not another injury

The biggest blow of the evening will be the news of an injury for Marcus Morris Sr. Though we’re yet to discover the full extent, to lose another starter will be a blow to Lue’s plans for whatever period of time he’s without his first-choice power forward.

However, the key to the Clippers being successful at this stage is the health of their top two stars. So long as there isn’t a complete collapse of the guys that surround them, both Leonard and George have broad enough shoulders to carry this team. Morris going down should instead allow others to step up, with Nicolas Batum still searching for his best consistent form again and RoCo wanting more time to showcase what he can do.

That’s what comes next now for this squad and staff. It’s a situation they’re more than used to by now, and they know exactly how to manage their way through this kind of stuff. They’ve already shown us that we’ve got to just keep trusting the process. With that, this next chapter of the season can bring pure excitement.