Lakers-Clippers: A tale of two teams

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – One Los Angeles team was the hottest in the NBA coming into this matchup, while the other has struggled to win games recently. The Clippers had won 14 of their past 16, and the Lakers had dropped 10 of their last 13. A 106-103 victory for the Lakers over their hallway rivals could change the fortunes of their basketball team moving forward.

Despite the Lakers being the team with all the banners in the rafters, the Clippers have looked better on paper and on the court this season. In a hard-fought game that was close from start to finish, the Lakers were finally the better LA team on Sunday.

“Real significant (win), especially beating the Clippers. Both teams definitely want to be the best team in LA. It kind of felt like a playoff atmosphere tonight, and we have to bring it every single game,” said Christian Wood. “Guys know this could be a step in the right direction, especially playing against the Clippers, who have four Hall of Famers, and they have been playing well.”

D’Angelo Russell started 1-7 from the field and 0-5 from three and was visibly frustrated after several misses late in the first half. The former number two overall pick would catch fire in the second half and hit back-to-back three-pointers that gave the Lakers the lead, allowing them to take control of the game.

“DLo had some great looks early that didn’t go down for him, but that is who he is. His confidence is unlimited, and you saw that when he continued to fire away,” said Darvin Ham. “You have to encourage these guys to shoot the ball, and to make those shots in those moments against that team is a huge boost of confidence for a guy who already has ultra-high confidence.”

LeBron James and Anthony Davis will get their own, but the Lakers are a much better team when Russell hits shots from distance, along with Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish. The trio combined for eight of the teams’ eleven three-pointers on the night.

“I don’t think anyone sets out to fail. If anyone learned anything last year, it is that this thing goes in stages, and I know we are the Lakers, and I embrace that and want us to be great, and it takes time to be great,” said Ham before tipoff. “Sometimes there are bumps in the road, but the totality of everything we do and the big picture is a process.”

The Clippers are only three games back of first place and are making an early case as one of the favorites to advance to the NBA Finals. On the other hand, the Lakers are in a familiar position and currently sit tenth in the Western Conference. That would make them a play-in team, something they were last year before going on a deep playoff run.

“It is a long season, and a lot of different things go on throughout the course of the season. There are a lot of moving parts,” said Ty Lue. “We were saying the same thing last year when they were 2-10, and then they went to the conference finals, so are you giving the coach all of the credit for that? I don’t think so, and I think D Ham did an incredible job last year and is doing the same thing this year with all the injuries and different starting lineups.”

The Lakers and Clippers will play each other two more times this year and have split the season series at one game apiece so far. Expect both matchups to be battles much like this one, as it will be the last two times they play under a shared arena. The Clippers will have a new stadium of their own next season, which will be called the Intuit Dome.

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