For quite some time the Clippers have been playing in the shadows of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers and attempted to step out of obscurity in Los Angeles with the addition of point guard Chris Paul.
Paul was acquired from New Orleans before the condensed season kicked off and will get his first taste of the Lakers-Clippers rivalry tonight from Staples Center. The Lakers took three of four meetings in last year's series and have won 16 of the last 21 meetings between the two clubs.
The Clippers have won three of the past four as the host in this series and are in the midst of playing three straight and six of seven games at home. It opened the homestand with a thrilling 95-89 overtime victory versus LeBron James and the star-studded Heat on Wednesday, as Paul delivered a season-high 27 points and handed out 11 assists to lead the Clips to their fourth win in five games. Caron Butler and Blake Griffin both netted 20 points, while Chauncey Billups had 12.
"That was a playoff-type game. To beat a team like that is huge," said Billups, who is 12 games away from 1,000 in his career and helped his team close out the game on a 9-3 spurt.
"It was a good win for us."
Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan had eight points and 11 rebounds, while Griffin pulled down a team-best 12 boards against Miami.
Paul has been worth the money this season and is posting 16.1 points and 8.8 assists per game. He is currently one of two players in the NBA averaging at least 16.0 points and 8.0 assists this season. Butler has scored 20-plus points in three straight games and is three games shy of 600 in his career.
The Clippers will entertain New Jersey before visiting Utah, then will return home for three straight matchups with Dallas, Minnesota and Toronto. Clips guard Mo Williams (foot) is probable for tonight's game. He is averaging 10.4 points and 4.0 assists this season.
Meanwhile, the Lakers won their fifth straight game on Friday when Kobe Bryant eclipsed the 40-point plateau for the third straight game, and the Lakers dropped the Cavaliers, 97-92, to give head coach Mike Brown a win against his former team.
Bryant finished with 42 points, his 110th career 40-point game, on 15-of-31 shooting, while Pau Gasol added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won five straight and improved to 8-1 as the home team.
Rookie star Kyrie Irving netted 21 points to pace Cleveland, which trailed by as many as 19 but pulled within one possession midway through the fourth quarter.
The Lakers, perhaps looking forward to tonight's matchup against the Clippers did not make a field goal for the first five-plus minutes of the final frame.
"Our guys just withstood their run. It wasn't pretty, but we just found a way and got enough stops," Brown said.