The way the game transpired, the Clippers proved they were the better team midway through the opening period. After that, the result was never in doubt.
If this is still the battle for L.A., the Clippers should be declared the winners. They were resounding in beating the Lakers 123-87 Friday night at Staples Center, a victory so lopsided that it represented their largest margin ever over their rivals.
They didn’t strut or brag after their win. They had already done that during the game, dunking and blocking shots and getting down the floor at warp speed. They ran out to an 11-point lead in the first six minutes, extended it to 19 in the second quarter, then outscored the Lakers 31-8 in the third.
And that loss to the Lakers on opening night? It’s in the distant past.
"Both teams are in different positions now," said forward Blake Griffin, who had 33 points in fewer than 30 minutes. "But we definitely remembered. … We just didn’t play well, and that was kind of a focal point for us coming into this game."
The Clippers are definitely in a better place. Although point guard Chris Paul is still out for several more weeks with a separated shoulder, shooting guard J.J. Redick returned from a broken right hand and hit stride quickly, making five of his first six shots and finishing with 19 points.
"I was obviously out a long time," Redick said, "so the worry was that I would just take a little bit of time to find a rhythm. To get into a rhythm in the first four minutes was surprising, but very nice."
And yet it was the Clippers’ defense that coach Doc Rivers praised afterward. The Clippers began to force turnovers early, and they successfully converted them into baskets as they pulled away. In what became a runaway, the Lakers made just 2 of 20 field goal attempts in the third period and trailed by 43 points.
"I thought the ball pressure changed the game," Rivers said. "I think the first five minutes, both teams were just going up and down. Then I thought our ball pressure literally changed the game."
No one was more imposing than Griffin, who had 20 points at the half and sat out the entire fourth quarter. He made 12 of 15 shots and had 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
To say Griffin has done it all for the Clippers would not be selling his level of play well enough. He's been an MVP: http://t.co/ob0uZOPQjI
"I’m going to use a cliché, but he’s a man on a mission," Redick said. "(He) really had a great command of the game on both sides of the ball. The pressure he was putting on their defense, especially in that first half, make or miss, just attacking and pushing the ball up, opened up a lot of things for us."
It opened up the floodgates, and the Clippers ran through.