The Los Angeles Clippers (50-26) had never won 50 games in a season until last week. They've also never won a division title. The Clippers could do that for the first time with a win on Sunday, and the opponent standing in the way just happens to be their co-tenants at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers (40-36). The teams play at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
A win would also give the Clippers their fourth over the Lakers this season and a sweep of the season series, further evidence that, at least this season, the basketball balance of power in Los Angeles has shifted firmly in the Clippers' direction.
Although the Lakers have not performed well against the Clippers this season, that's not Kobe Bryant's fault. Bryant has averaged 32 points per game while shooting nearly 60 percent against the Clippers this year. And along with avoiding a season sweep against an inter-city and inter-arena rival, the Lakers also need a win for more than symbolic reasons. They're trying to hold off the Utah Jazz and increase their half-game lead over Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Utah plays the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, so a Lakers loss would give the Jazz an opportunity to move back in front in the standings by the end of the night.
The Clippers will rely on All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who has been dominant in three games against the Lakers this season. Paul is averaging 24 points and nearly 14 assists per game in those matchups. The Clippers enter the game with injury concerns, but that's nothing new for a team that has played well all season despite an ever-shuffling lineup. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Matt Barnes are all expected to play against the Lakers, while Chauncey Billups is doubtful, according to the team.