The Los Angeles Clippers are the 2012-13 Pacific Division Champions. Let that sink in for a moment. Not only that, but to clinch the division, they defeated their Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Lakers, in convincing fashion. The Clippers swept the season series with the Lakers for the first time since the 1974-75 season, and three of the four games weren’t even close (i.e. double-digit wins). The Lakers have the history, the banners, the fan base and one Kobe Bryant, a likely top-10 player of all-time. But at least for this season, the Clippers have their number and are clearly the better team with a brighter future. The Clippers are the best basketball team in Los Angeles, and to a larger extent, the Pacific Division. Onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
Los Angeles Lakers
MVP: Chris Paul. With Kobe Bryant and the Lakers within striking distance most of the game, Paul kept the Clippers in control with 24 points and 12 assists in another sparkling performance against the Purple and Gold.
Well that was… historic. A few firsts: The Clippers clinched their first Pacific Division crown, earned their first banner to hang in the rafters, and swept the season series against the Lakers for the first time since both teams have been in Los Angeles.
Defining moment: The result was basically decided already, but Blake Griffin’s enormous putback jam and 3-pointer put an exclamation point on a win as important mentally as it was in the standings.
- D.J. Foster
That’s how we ball out
Sealing the deal
Griffin’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left gave the Clippers a 108-92 lead and put the game out of reach.
Tweet(s) of the Game
LA Clippers: “Started from the bottom now we here. Started from the bottom now the whole team here.”
— Touré (@Toure) April 7, 2013
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) April 7, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Today’s crew (Andrew, Fred, Patrick, Jordan and Jovan) discusses the significance of winning the Pacific Division and whether the Clippers should hang a banner or not (almost a unanimous yes). If not, stay for the Staples Center music.
Check Your Messages
Ball So Hard
Everything Ryan Hollins does he does hard, and what he may lack in “body control” and “fine motor skills,” he makes up in persistence.
He has established himself as the Clippers’ most diligent and able high-screen setter, using the combination of his motor and size to stay in the play until space for the ball-handler has been created. Hollins’ unreliable hands make him a so-so rebounder, but he keeps possessions alive, either smacking a rebound off the backboard or back-tapping 50-50 balls away from the fray. He runs the court hard, rolls to the rim hard, and isn’t afraid to physically challenge the biggest bigs. He even Hack-a-Dwights hard – repeatedly smacking the Laker center on the wrist in the 4th quarter today while he waited for the refs to notice.
Sure, Hollins doesn’t bring the versatility of Lamar Odom’s Swiss-Army Knife of skills, but even that might actually be a positive. Using Hollins as the first center off the bench allows the team to replace DJ with another “true” big, and doesn’t require a radical – and often disruptive – stylistic shift in play.
- Jordan Heimer
When I was a young kid, I always rooted against Michael Jordan out of spite. Nobody deserved to be that good, I fumed. So my earliest memories of watching basketball are riddled with disappointment as the Bulls emerged victorious over the Sonics, then the Jazz, twice. To this day, I regret not embracing Jordan’s greatness and failing to appreciate his genius in real time.
I think it was around Kobe’s 81-point performance when I realized I didn’t want to experience that same regret. I didn’t love Kobe, but I loved watching him play. As he aged, so did his game – an exercise in understanding the changes in one’s own body. But as much as I’ve delighted in watching Kobe play over these last few years, nothing feels quite as good as watching him seethe quietly in anger on the bench as the Clippers simultaneously complete a season sweep, illuminate the Lakers’ glaring weaknesses, and, oh yeah, clinch the Pacific Division title. Here’s some choice quotes from Kobe after the game:
“We’ve got bigger challenges than beating the Clippers.”
On watching the Jazz/Warriors game tonight: “Nah, I’ll probably go get some Italian food and not worry about that (expletive).”
Bonus Quote: asked if Kobe was tired, D’Antoni replied: “Could be. But that’s the risk we run.” Come on, coach, you know Mamba hates puns.
- Michael Shagrin
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Just take a moment to rejoice. Stop worrying about the 3-point defense and the defensive rebounding and the substitution rotations. This is something we’ve never seen before. A division championship is a big deal. Maybe it isn’t one down the hallway, for the other team in the Staples Center – the one that wears purple and gold – but for a fan base that has been tortured in Los Angeles for three decades, this is a chance to be happy. The Clippers aren’t tied up in the NBA’s dungeon anymore. Maybe we already knew that, but isn’t tangible validation always nice? It’s not a participation trophy if you earn it. I grew up rooting for the Clippers in basketball and the Jets in football. So many times I’ve seen success go over a fan’s head purely because negativity has too often been drilled into the mind. It’s hard to rid that mentality once it’s there. But Clipper fans should celebrate, if only because we know how fleeting basketball happiness can be.
- Fred Katz
I’m You From The Past…
Blake Griffin’s stat line was a thing of beauty tonight: 24 points, 12 boards and 5 assists. But putting aside his back-breaking (for the Lakers) 3-pointer and his late jams, what stands out is his rebounding effort — effort being the operative word. From the outset, Griffin was battling for position with Pau Gasol — who seems to bring out the beast in Blake — and fighting to grab loose balls. The play was reminiscent of the power forward’s first year in the league, when he made a name for himself with relentless hustle (in addition to the highlights). It’s almost as if Blake from the past travelled through time to tell Blake of the present that the best thing he can do for his team is hustle.
Griffin’s hustle has a ripple effect: when he plays like this, so do those around him. DeAndre Jordan likewise had 12 boards. Even Lamar Odom, who played just 11 minutes, pulled down 5 of his own. More importantly, Dwight Howard managed a mere 4 boards. The rebounding differential (50 to 36 total, 16 to 10 offensive) was overwhelmingly in the Clippers’ favor, and it might have been the coup de grâce for the Lakers.
- Patrick James
Process, Progress (Banner Talk)
I know I just said on ClipperBlog Live that I’m not a fan of handing out participation awards, giving out perfect attendance pins, making sure everyone has a trophy. But in the five minutes since signing off and thumbing through NBA division banners, I’ve amended my opinion.
The one thing of constant focus throughout the resurrection of the Clippers (at least on this site) is process; focus on the method, progress through reproducible means. And one sign of process and progress for any franchise is raising banners: first a division, later a conference and, at some point, hopefully a title.
Barring the organizations with double-digit titles, every team in the league holds their division banners up with pride. The most dominant franchise of the ’90s? Chicago won six titles and their division banners still hang. The heir apparent franchise expected to inevitably win championships? The Thunder raised their Northwest division banner.
Patrick James said something on a previous CBL that has gnawed at me: This Clippers team bears the unfortunate burden of expectations before achievement. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the things they do achieve just because of the many things still expected.
- Andrew Han