Without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, impossible. At least, it’s the feeling it gives against the big teams. The Bucks beat the Los Angeles by 15, and the Clippers, in a derby that would have been high if it had all the stars, they have done it by 18. Neither have given an option nor the others have presented opposition in a party without a history resolved in the first half, with a second that has been based, by the locals (according to the colors of the stadium and the teams, since they both play at the Staples Center), on maintaining a distance of about twenty goals that the Lakers have not been able to get closer. The control of the game by Tyronn Lue’s team has been such that his rivals have not been ahead at any point in the game. What’s more, they haven’t even gotten to put a draw on the scoreboard, a figure that gives a good example of the superiority shown by a team that, apart from having imposed on an orphan squad, is one of the teams in the best shape of the entire NBA: they have chained seven victories in the last nine games and break a streak of two consecutive losses that once again propels them to just over a month before the playoffs.
The Lakers thing is not anyone’s fault. Neither from Frank Vogel, who cannot get from where there is none, nor from the players, who make up a squad prepared to surround their stars and not to play without them. With this defeat, the Angelenos begin the fall (if they had not already) that everyone anticipated with the injury of LeBron James: They are fifth in the Western Conference, they have the Blazers at half a game and the Mavericks, three. That is the position they do not want to look at and that nobody is considering right now. The Spurs, round of 16, are in another fight further away, but Luka Doncic’s team could climb enough to come back … and avoid the play-in, that kind of preview invented by the NBA in pandemic and that has lasted this year (just like the pandemic, on the other hand), doubling their participation from two to four teams. The Lakers do not want to play the play-in, or enter a battle that they will surely win but that they can lose, and that would also increase the wear with, by dates, LeBron and Davis recently recovered from their respective injuries. But of course, the possibility exists. Is there. And no one can ignore it.
Against the Clippers, the disaster was mainly in attack, a continuous jam in which, if the pitch does not enter, there is nothing to do. 2 of 10 for Kyle Kuzma for 6 Pyrrhic points, 4 of 10 for Markieff Morris, who finished with 9, 8 points for Caldwell-Pope with 3 of 9 shooting, another 8 for Schröder with an ignominious 3 of 12 and 30% in the triple with 18 losses by, yes, 19 of the Clippers, but with 50% from the outside for them, thanks to a success that translated into 14 3-pointers of 28 attempts. The best of Frank Vogel’s team, undaunted by the debacle of losing his people but intelligent and calculating, aware that their stars are coming back and that we must keep the team focused for when that happens, were the former Clippers Harrell (19 + 6), Horton-Tucker (16 + 5) and … Marc Gasol, who added 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists with 3 of 3 in triples and wrapped in an anger that made public after the signing of Andre Drummond, who has relegated him to the substitution until the center, who was injured in his debut, returns.
And the Clippers are all smiles. Up to 12 players entered the rotation and scored 10, four of them exceeded double digits and no big bragging was needed from anyone. Kawhi Leonard went to 19 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in a good shooting series (8 of 15), Marcus Morris had 22 points, Paul George 16, with 7 rebounds, Luke Kennard was a pylon hammer with 15 points and 3 of 6 on triples … in addition, Tyronn Lue’s men crushed their rivals on the rebound (50 for 36), were ahead in assists (23 for 16) and shot with a good 47.7% in field goals, in addition to scoring 18 more points trying 11 fewer free throws. In short, the two sides of the same coin (that the metaphor is understood for this particular case) in a city that expects, this year, see a duel that seemed like a thing of fate in the last playoffs but that did not happen due to the miracles of the Nuggets. And that it seems it again this year with an added danger for both: that, if the Lakers go down to sixth place and the Clippers stay where they are, there would be an Los Angeles derby in the first round. There it is.