The Lakers’ last game was Tuesday night’s loss to the 76ers. They’ve had some time to reflect and regroup. Yesterday, the team held a five-on-five practice, trying to get sharp while mindful not to overly tax their geriatric legs. There will be a Staples Center battle tonight. The Clippers are coming off a two-game skid and are just .16 behind OKC for the best record in the league. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Lakers would be watching on television – they are currently in 11th place in the west.
At this point in the season, the standings are still fluid. OKC, the Clippers and the Spurs are in a virtual dead heat. Other teams are not that far behind. The young Golden State Warriors are playing inspired ball and in fact, romped over the Clippers on Wednesday. Memphis is playing well, and Houston, Denver and Portland are all on 7-3 runs. It’s not so much the actual places in the standings that become an issue, but momentum. The season’s still up for grabs and while the Lakers have won six of their last eight, they’re trying to catch other teams that are similarly trending up.
In the latest chapter of his Beast or Burden series, Ben Rosales at Silver Screen and Roll examines uncertain times.
Dave McMenamin for ESPN’S Lakers Index considers five keys for the Lakers/Clippers match.
Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports looks at the Clippers determination to forge their own identity in the L.A. turf wars.
D.J. Foster for ProBasketballTalk brings us Kobe Bryant’s assertion that the Clippers are championship caliber.
Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers says the team is trying to find the right pace.
Ben Bolch at the L.A.Times looks at the lopside history of Lakers/Clippers battles.
Kobe Bryant leads all players in All-Star voting. Ramneet Singh at Lakers Nation reports that he’s surprised.
And finally, Phil gave Jeanie a ring on Christmas – Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie spreads the joy.
Make no mistake, tonight’s game against the Clippers is significant. Each team has something to prove – on a local supremacy level and as a simple matter of numbers. For the eternally snakebitten Los Angeles Clippers, this is their season. They’re not rebuilding, they’re not looking to next year. They want it and they want it now. For the Los Angeles Lakers, there is the weary sense of pride that you sometimes get with old champions. They’ve been to the dance time and again and don’t like watching from the sidelines. It has been an up and down 31 games for this team and they’re slowly righting the ship. Time however, is not their friend. Time is the avenger.