Los Angeles, CA.— Most experts and fans 3/4 of the way through the NBA season believed the best team in Los Angeles by far would have been the franchise with historic tradition, and one of the best players in league. Compared to a team that has never gotten out of the second round of the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Clippers (37-29) put everyone on notice by putting the sights of a potential playoff spot for the Lakers on hold (for now) and their chances dwindling away. When they defeated their in-town rivals Los Angeles Lakers 113-105 on Monday night in front of a frustrated Laker crowd.
Many believed the Clippers without a franchise building star would not be in the position they are now (7th) in the Western Conference. Especially after trading away their leading scorer at the time Tobias Harris (PHI).
Yet, here they are in prime position for a playoff spot and just two games out of the sixth spot behind the Utah Jazz.
Photo By: Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP
When the referee threw the ball in the air for the opening tip, many hoped or believed that the team in purple & gold would come out like the more desperate team and with more to prove.
That wasn't the case.
The team in black led by the heart & soul of the team Patrick Beverley came out looking to make statement, not just in front of Laker fans at Staples Center, but also a nationally televised audience.
Beverley who took the challenge of defending James from the jump said after the game "we wanted it more." Beverley who finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals and also knocked down 3-6 from 3-pt and everytime he did, he let the Laker fans know about it. He stared down the crowd while holding up three fingers.
His teammates know what he (Beverley) brings every night.
Aggravating, defensive, hard-nosed, competitive," teammate Montrezl Harrell said of Beverley. "That is what he brings to our game, that is what he brings every night. Before the coaches even went down to who's got who, Pat came in and said I got LeBron."
Harrell who finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, said of Beverley's mentality: "A guy who is below-average height when it comes to matching up with a guy of that caliber, but he doesn't care. That is what makes him special."
Lou Williams who may have had one of the most critical plays of the night when he stole a pass from James intended for Josh Hart, and went in for a layup putting them up 12. No other Laker got back on defense besides Hart, and you saw the Lakers fading.
"This is a critical time to win games, and we're locked in," Williams (21 points) said. "Tonight I felt particularly good about our focus."
Danilo Gallinari led the Clippers with 23 points and 6 rebounds. The backcourt containing of two fellow rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Landry Shamet combined for 26 points and 7 assists.
They were a +10 in rebounding (50-40).
When head coach Doc Rivers was asked about beating the in-town rivals: "That doesn't bother me or make me happy, I just want us to do well."
They've done more than just well. They exceeded expectations.
The Los Angeles Lakers (30-34) have now lost five of six and are on the brink of elimination.
No Brandon Ingram to start the game due to a shoulder injury, and already without Lance Stephenson and Lonzo Ball most of the play-making depended on James. He knew that, and so did the Clippers.
James finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assist. He was just 1-6 from 3-pt.
"You keep playing to the end and see what happens," James said. "I've been talking about it for a while now. Everyone has been talking about the postseason, (but) we should be worried about each and every game and how we can continue to get better with our process and get better with our team."
The Lakers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Rajon Rondo contributed with a solid triple-double finshing with 24 points, 12 assist, and 10 rebounds. Josh Hart chipped in with his first double figures scoring game (17 points) since January 17th.
Kyle Kuzma finished with 13 points before leaving the game after turning his right ankle in the second half.
Clippers Next Game: vs Oklahoma City @ 7:30 PT.
Lakers Next Game: Wednesday vs Denver @ 7:30 PT.