Since moving to Los Angeles in 1984, the LA Clippers have been the Los Angeles Lakers’ little brother. It’s still a fair assessment as the Clippers are without a title, while the Lakers have 17 and are the reigning NBA champions.
It’s understandable from a Clippers’ perspective to at least dislike the Lakers. However, with just a weekend slate of games left before the play-in tournament, Clippers fans should put aside their differences and root for the Lakers.
While the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers rival one another, the former’s fan base should root for the 17-time champs with two games remaining.
As it stands, the Clippers are tied with the Denver Nuggets for the third-best record in the Western Conference. Both teams have a 47-24 record, but the Nuggets possess the tiebreaker. That said, the Clippers are the 4-seed in the West and could swap places with the Nuggets with a win over the OKC Thunder and a Nuggets loss on Sunday.
While the Clippers secured home-court advantage through the first round, climbing to the 3-seed is critical for the opportunity to play the Lakers.
The Lakers underwhelmed this season, posting a 40-30 record which is good for the 7-seed in the West. However, the drop in the standings from 2020 has more to do with injuries than any other factor. The reigning champs cannot fall further but have an opportunity to climb the standings to avoid the play-in tournament.
And doing so is possible. The Lakers are just a half-game behind the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
Peering through Clippers fans’ perspectives, it would be exciting to see the Lakers fight for a playoff spot in the play-in tournament. Certainly, it would be enjoyable if the Lakers missed the playoffs because of the new format, especially after LeBron James’s disapproval of it.
However, if the Lakers do find themselves in the play-in tournament, it seems unlikely that they’d lose two games to either the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs. Furthermore, if they make it out, they’ll ultimately play either the Utah Jazz or Phoenix Suns — both of which are great teams and would pose serious threats to the Lakers.
So, yes, the Lakers would have a difficult first-round series against either the Jazz or Suns after playing at least one play-in game. But, it would mean more to Clippers fans if the team led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George defeated the reigning champs on its own.
So, Clippers fans should cheer on the Lakers, hoping their older brother earns the 6-seed, while the Clippers push for the 3-seed. These placements will match the two Los Angeles teams up in a first-round best of seven.
Such a series would be the first in history as neither team has faced off in the playoffs before. The tense rivalry will be present, and the winner will have some bragging rights.
That said, the Clippers pose a considerable threat to the Lakers this year. James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ star duo, have battled injuries all season, and it may spill into the playoffs.
James and Davis both missed the team’s latest game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday and are questionable for Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
James, 36, is nursing an ankle injury that’s sidelined him since March 21, except for two games. Davis has been battling calf, groin, ankle and back injuries that have limited him to just 34 games played. James has played 43.
Without the tandem, the Lakers virtually have no shot at winning the series. Even with them, though, the Clippers hold the advantage as both Leonard and George aren’t tending to an injury at the moment.
Additionally, in the one game in which all four stars played — the first game of the season for both squads — the Clippers won 116-109. In the two subsequent games, James did not play, and Davis played nine minutes of one contest before leaving with an injury. In those two games, the LA Clippers won by a combined score of 222-180.
Sure, it’s a risk to play James in the playoffs given his ability to lead a team to the NBA Finals, a feat he accomplished in nine of the last 10 seasons. It’s also tough to play the reigning champions. However, the reward is so great, and with James and Davis nursing injuries, the series may be easier than expected.
So if you’re a Clippers fan, put on your imaginary Lakers jerseys for the weekend and root for the Lakers to capture the 6-seed and the LA Clippers to grab the 3-seed. Then, be ready for an intense best of seven between the rivals.