Clippers beat Lakers, sweep battle of LA
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Of all the signs on Sunday that the tables had officially turned when it comes to the two NBA teams in Los Angeles, the most obvious was this: the Clippers’ 109-95 win vs. the Lakers that gave them the first series sweep since the team came here in 1984 and secured their first Pacific Division banner in franchise history.
The most fascinating, however, was this: Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro addressing the media before tipoff, insisting that the tension and drama being reported recently by local media members was overblown and that his players were more than ready to make a run at the championship. How very Lakers of them.
Yet while it’s true the Clippers have some work left to do in terms of recapturing the chemistry that helped them get off to a 25-6 start in their historic season, the Lakers are the ones with the real problems. With five games left, they’re tied with the Utah Jazz at 40-37 but out of playoff position in the Western Conference because the Jazz won the season series 2-1. Utah plays at Golden State on Sunday night.
And for all the time spent dissecting the Lakers’ drama this season, the irony of the moment is that they appear to be getting along just fine. There’s no rift between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol isn’t complaining about coach Mike D’Antoni through the media.
With Steve Nash and Metta World Peace out with injuries, this group that had championship aspirations is taking this playoff push until the end for one simple reason: they just don’t play well enough on a consistent basis.
“I don’t really see it as that big of a deal,” insisted Bryant, who had 25 points on 6 of 19 shooting and played all but one minute. “We’ve got some tough games coming up, and we’ve got to go out there and do what we do.”
Asked if there was pressure, he said, “This, pressure? No.”
The schedule is in the Lakers’ favor in terms of location, as four of the games are at home. But even the weakest opponent left … [For more on Clippers bludgeon Lakers to sweep battle of Los Angeles, click here.]