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NBA - Dig this: Are the Clippers the new kings of L.A.?


PhilBoxing.com




LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeless Lakers officially retired his No. 34 jersey last April 2 at the Staples Center, Shaquille O'Neal barked an old, familiar refrain: "Can you diiiiig it????!!

Many felt nostalgic about Shaq's exploits which helped the Lakers won an NBA three-peat from 2000 to 2002.

But times are currently rough for these Lakers, 16-time NBA champions and the undisputed kings of Los Angeles. This season they were swept in all four regular season games by crosstown rivals the L.A. Clippers. What a difference a season makes.

With five games left in the regular season schedule and their playoffs hopes still hanging in the balance, the Lakers took a devastating blow Sunday afternoon, when the Clippers beat them 109-95 at the Staples Center.

The victory gave the Clippers the Pacific Division title, their first in the 42-year history of the franchise.

Known as Lob City for their exciting play above the rim, the Clippers have shown the spunk and electricity reminiscent of the Showtime Lakers of Magic Johnson.

Blake Griffin's power dunks make fans get up on their seats and celebrate. Chris Paul's teardrop is a sight to behold. Paul is one of the best guards in the NBA today, averaging 9.6 assists per game and lending court generalship to a hungry bunch of guys on a mission.

The playoffs don't start until April 20 and the seedings remain undetermined. The Clips are vying for a No. 4 finish with the aim of having homecourt advantage in the opening round possibly against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are at No. 5,

Make no mistake, these Clippers are no longer the butt of jokes in the NBA. Big Man DeAndre Jordan is a wall of defense and a threat on offense. Willie Green is heating up beyond the 3-point arc, shooting 41.8 percent from long distance.

In contrast, the slipping Lakers are hounded by injuries and struggling to find cohesion. Steve Nash is nursing a hamstring injury and might suit up in the next game against New Orleans on April 9. Back-up guard Steve Blake agreed with Kobe Bryant. "They (Clippers) are a good team, no doubt about it. They are a tough team to beat for everybody."

The Lakers, in a neck-and-neck battle with the Utah Jazz for the last playoff spot, travel to Portland on April 10 before hosting the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets.

Utah, which beat Golden State Sunday night, face Oklahoma next and then Minnesota twice before finishing their schedule on the road against Memphis.

Sweeping the Lakers in all their last four meetings this season has been a dream-come-true for the once struggling franchise which used to see empty seats and rafters. That was only a few years back.

Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford, Ronnie Turiaf and Eric Bledsoe gaining are now more confident than ever, and the Clippers are playing to a packed Staples Center every night.

Funny how things change with time. Can you dig it? (SD)


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Shelley Dano.


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