For so long as they’ve shared basketball rights — and hearts — in Los Angeles, there have been remarkably few playoff matchups between the Lakers and Clippers through the years. Like zero, to be exact. Fifteen years in the past, the Lakers had been one win away from creating the primary “Hallway Collection” at Staples Heart. Final yr, the Clippers had been one win away from confronting their rivals within the Western Convention finals. However alas, the Lakers blew a 3-1 sequence lead towards the Phoenix Suns in 2006, and the Clippers did the identical towards the Denver Nuggets in 2020.
There was an opportunity they’d play within the first or second spherical this yr, however the Clippers someway managed to lose their remaining two video games of the common season to 2 of the worst groups within the league to defer a possible matchup till the convention finals.
However that is it. A bunch of what-might-have-beens and Tuesday evening’s very-oddly-scheduled doubleheader with each LA groups — nonetheless the betting favorites in Las Vegas to return out of the Western Convention — tipping off inside a half hour of one another, each attempting to return again after dropping the primary recreation of their respective first-round playoff sequence.
On this evening, the 2 groups had been moving into very completely different instructions. The seventh-seeded Lakers beat the second-seeded Suns 109-102 in entrance of a raucous, largely maskless crowd of 11,919 in Phoenix to even their best-of-7 sequence at 1-1 heading again to Los Angeles.
The fourth-seeded Clippers seemed misplaced attempting to unravel the brilliance of Dallas Mavericks celebrity level guard Luka Doncic (39 factors, seven rebounds, seven assists), trailed by double-digits at residence for many of the evening in entrance of a shocked, fully-masked crowd of 6,885 at Staples Heart and lost 127-121 to fall right into a 2-0 gap heading again to Dallas.
Solely 31 groups in NBA historical past have gained the primary two video games of a best-of-7 sequence on the street. Twenty-seven of these groups went on to win the sequence.
Lengthy odds for the Clippers, who should now take an extended look within the mirror to determine how these previous two seasons, which started with a lot promise, may have gone thus far off monitor.
Will the tantalizing battle of LA — which appeared so inevitable after the groups tussled over Kawhi Leonard in free company two summers in the past — ever occur?
Luka Doncic continues his stellar postseason begin by scoring 39 factors and main Dallas to a 2-0 sequence lead.
For 2 groups beginning the evening in the identical gap, they ended it additional aside than ever. The Clippers at the moment are two video games away from elimination and in a deep existential disaster. The Lakers have seemingly righted the ship with dominant performances from Anthony Davis (34 factors, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks) and LeBron James (23 factors, 9 assists) and a wounded opponent heading again residence for 2 video games at Staples Heart.
Davis had put the loss in Sport 1 on himself and vowed to do higher. Requested after this recreation if James had given him any recommendation on the way to reply, Davis mentioned: “We have been collectively for some time now. He do not need to be in my ear. He noticed it on my face. Since final yr he is at all times been on me about perfection, taking part in onerous, taking part in via environments like this. So it is paying off. I acquired to the purpose the place I do not want Bron to return in and inform me what I must do. I do know now.”
James and the Lakers tipped off first, and so they had each expertise — James had by no means misplaced the primary two video games of the playoff sequence in his 14-year profession — and circumstance — Phoenix level guard Chris Paul was hampered all recreation with a shoulder damage — on their aspect.
Nonetheless, Phoenix made a aggressive recreation of it behind gutty performances from Devin Booker (31 factors) and reserve guard Cameron Payne (19 factors, 7 assists), and one other uber-efficient evening from third-year middle Deandre Ayton (22 factors, 10 rebounds on 11-13 capturing).
Payne even rallied the Suns to a 90-89 lead late within the fourth quarter, discovering Ayton for a dunk with 5:39 to go. However the championship mettle of James and Davis took over down the stretch as they scored 16 of the Lakers remaining 18 factors to seal the street win.
It is onerous to know, because it at all times is when Paul suffers an damage within the playoffs, how various things might need been if he was wholesome. However he took simply 5 pictures Tuesday evening and sat out over 9 minutes of the second half with an injured proper shoulder which stored him from even making an attempt a 3-pointer, each profession playoff lows in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info.
With Paul injured, Booker and Payne understood they wanted to fill each the scoring void, and the management hole, which they did admirably. However down the stretch, they’d no reply for Davis and James.
“It will be robust, however all of us need to step up,” Booker mentioned. “We do not know the way his well being is correct now. How shortly he’ll get well. However all people has to provide a bit bit extra.”
The Clippers tipped off a half hour later, decided to be extra aggressive in attacking the rim towards a persistently inconsistent Dallas protection, and largely succeeded in doing so.
Leonard scored 30 of his game-high 41 factors within the first half. George had 28 factors, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. However no person had a solution for Doncic, whose brilliance appears to be rising exponentially by the sport.
Within the first recreation of the sequence, the Clippers had been reluctant to tire George or Leonard out by assigning them to defend Doncic. In Sport 2, they’d no different selection.
Even when the Clippers went to their cheat code: placing Leonard — a former Defensive Participant of the Yr — on Doncic, he nonetheless managed to attain eight factors on 3 of 6 capturing.
However maybe most damaging, Doncic pivoted to organising his teammates each time the Clippers made some extent of stopping him. The Mavericks feasted on uncontested 3-pointers on Tuesday, hitting 11 of 14 (79 p.c) and 18-of-34 3-pointers total.
Tim Hardaway Jr. hit 6-of-8 3-pointers as a part of his 28 factors. Kirstaps Porzingis hit 3-of-4 3s as a part of his 20 factors.
“I give credit score to Luka. He is good. He is particular,” George mentioned. “We acquired to rise to the event. If we do not, we’re performed for.”