4. Clippers stick a fork in their rival’s hearts
LeBron James’ presence on the Lakers was supposed to be the turning point back to how basketball used to be in Los Angeles. In recent years prior, the Clippers had thrived with their Lob City trio, while the Lakers were attempting to build from the ground up after the Kobe Bryant era came to its unceremonious end.
The Lakers now had arguably the best player in the world in purple and gold, while their L.A. counterparts were entering a new and more vulnerable era of star-less basketball. They were supposed to return to consistent playoff appearances and title contention, while the Clippers would go back to a life lived in the shadows, clouded by irrelevance.
When the two teams met up in early March, those early-season predictions couldn’t have been more off the mark. The Clippers held their own destiny in a firm position to make the playoffs barring a massive collapse. The Lakers, on the other hand, struggled all season with injuries and cohesion that required an uphill battle just for the chance at a playoff spot.
Despite the do-or-die circumstances, the Lakers didn’t come out of the February All-Star break with much of a sense of urgency. They lost four of six games, essentially closing the door on a late playoff push. Whatever slim hope they held onto required the smallest margin of error, and even that may not have been enough given how little of the playoff picture was actually in their control.
With a golden opportunity right in front of the Lakers, the Clippers took full advantage. They outworked their opponent to beat them 113-105 in a Staples Center drenched in purple and gold. The Lakers’ chances at the postseason were already slim to none, but this loss truly was the nail in the coffin that pushed them 4.5 games out with just 18 remaining.
For the Clippers to finish with a better record than the Lakers was a victory in and of itself. Back in August, NBA Twitter laughed at Patrick Beverley‘s proclamation that his team was better than the Lakers. To add salt to an already blistering wound was added joy for a team still trying to earn respect as more than the little brother to a historic franchise.