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Lakers and Clippers partake in a highly important rivalry game in Los Angeles

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The Battle of Los Angeles is one of the most-watched rivalries in the NBA. But since these teams are yet to meet in the Playoffs, the regular season clashes between the Lakers and Clippers serve as a treat to fans in the City of Angels.

Their Wednesday night matchup held many stakes for both sides in the last week of the regular season. Both teams held a 41-38 record, with the Clippers just edging their rivals for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

While the Clippers have kept themselves afloat for most of the season before a slight decline towards the end, the Lakers’ season has been characterized by late surges. Injuries and roster issues became the culprit for most fans writing the Purple and Gold off early on. But the Lakers came to life late, winning 15 of their last 22, including an overtime win against the Utah Jazz about 24 hours before Wednesday’s game. Having both LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the floor and a few effective tweaks around the trade deadline seemed to have done the trick.

It appeared as though they were about to showcase their comeback ability later in the game. The Clippers lead comfortably with a 24-point cushion at halftime before LeBron and company came as close as eight points to tying and stealing the game in the third. However, Norman Powell, who led the Clippers with 27 points in the game, found the hot hand, and the opposing all-team effort had no answers. The Clips led by 11 before the fourth frame and put the game to bed, 118-125, at the end of 48 minutes for their 11th consecutive win against the Lakers.

The Playoff picture

With the win, the Clippers moved to the fifth seed, swapping places with the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, the Lakers remain seventh, just on the verge of breaking into Playoff contention and avoiding the somewhat-sudden-death scenario of the Play-in tournament.

The Western Conference has been a rollercoaster all season long. But with just a few days left, the Playoff picture is starting to shape up with the top-4 teams having punched their postseason tickets. Both the Los Angeles teams and the Warriors have only two games left on their schedules. Results will determine who plays against the highly favored Phoenix Suns in the first round, who squares off against the Cinderella story protagonists in the Sacramento Kings, and who has to walk the thin wire of the Play-in. This showdown in Hollywood may not have been for all the marbles, but it was for the better chance to compete for them.

An act of revenge

Another narrative that revolved around the game is the one of Russell Westbrook. After a stint with the Lakers that brought everything but flowers to smell, the former league MVP stayed in LA with the Clippers. Since switching sides, Westbrook has averaged 15.1 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per Statmuse. While nothing close to his stat machine numbers with the Oklahoma City Thunder, being in Ty Lou’s system serves as chaos control for someone with a massive chip on his shoulder.

On what would have been a “prove it” game for Westbrook against his former squad, he spent most of his minutes on the sideline. With Paul George out due to a knee sprain, Westbrook automatically gets the nod as Kawhi Leonard’s second-in-command. But knowing his tendencies, Lou may have won them the game by sitting Westbrook down to make sure he did not get carried away and lose the game. However, Westbrook did not just offer high fives and handshakes. With 20 minutes of playing time, Westbrook tallied 14 points, three rebounds, and four assists on a short yet productive shift.

The evergreen questions for these teams remain. Can Anthony Davis stay away from injuries? Can the Clippers stars do the same? What happens to both squads if they don’t win this year? The Playoffs this year are bound to be fireworks. The thought of the Lakers and Clippers meeting in the postseason is honestly unrealistic. But if we learned anything from this past season, do not count anything or anybody out too soon.



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