It looks like The Lakers aren't going to be the only team representing Los Angeles basketball in the playoffs this year.
Last night, the Clippers defeated the first place Oklahoma City Thunder in one of their biggest wins of the season and clinched a playoff birth for just the fifth time in franchise history. (They officially clinched after the first half when Houston lost to Denver but beating OKC made for the "thunder"ous exclamation point).
The Thunder have been one of, (if not, the best) teams in the league all year. There's no question a win like that is huge for the Clippers confidence going into the post season.
The Clippers have won 12 of their last 14 and have beaten OKC three of the four times the teams have played each other this season. it doesn't seem like the Clipshow are one bit intimidated by the Western Conference's best team; an attitude that is only going to help them in the playoffs.
Blake Griffin finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks while Chris Paul put up a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
Keep in mind, OKC had a season low 25 points in the second half on 9-31 shooting. They scored the same amount of points in the 2nd quarter alone.
Regardless, the Clippers played well and deserve a lot of credit for the defense they played against the league's highest scoring team. If they keep up this type of play, they have a very strong chance of going father than people think in the postseason.
The Clippers next game is tomorrow night against Denver.
And while the Clippers are looking good heading into the playoffs, so are their metropolitan counterparts, The Lakers, who, without Kobe Bryant in the lineup due to a shin injury, are 4-1 in their last five games.
I think the Lakers have surprised a lot of people by playing so well without Kobe. But the facts of the matter are that they have solid players other than Kobe that can play. Ramon Sessions has given them a ton more speed and control in the backcourt. Gasol is playing better now that he can just play his game and not worry about trade rumors all the time. Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes have both had noteworthy games as of late and who can say enough about Andrew Bynum? He's one of the most talked-about athletes in the media these days and that's a direct result of his play. Yea, he's had some backlash to deal with in regards to his attitude but the bottom line is he's been downright amazing this season. According to Shaquille O'Neal he's the best center in the league. I agree. I think it's pretty obvious he's the second best player on the team to Kobe and a huge reason the Lakers have been successful with Bryant on the bench.
(Author's recommendation: Go to the bleacherreport.com and check out Manuel Gutierrez's article about Bynum titled "Los Angeles Lakers Center Andrew Bynum Has Finally Arrived." It's one of the best pieces of NBA journalism I've read all year.)
Between Gasol and Bynum, the size of the Lakers down low is going to be tough to deal with in the playoffs. And if they get continued production from the rest of the lineup, they will be a hard team to beat in coming weeks. The Lakers will play their sixth consecutive game without Kobe tonight against the Spurs.
No matter what team you prefer in LA, Los Angelians should have a lot of postseason basketball to watch this year.
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