Clippers rule LA after breezing past Lakers

LOS ANGELES —Battle of L.A.? Are you kidding?

Did you ever think the day would come when the Clippers
toyed with the Lakers?

“I never thought I’d see (it),” former Laker center and
current TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal said after the Clippers 125-101 crushing
of the Lakers at Staples Center.

Well, very few may have seen it coming, but it officially
arrived on Valentine’s Day 2013. On a day in which heart is the focus, the
Clippers showed an abundance of it and the Lakers — again — showed little.

“They were good. Really good,” said Laker center Dwight
Howard, who neglected to add that the Lakers were bad. Really bad.

Howard didn’t have to say it because it was obvious from the
opening tip, when Chris Paul gained possession of the jump ball and within 4:59
the Clippers were shutting out the Lakers 15-0. After that the Lakers never got
closer than three.

The Clippers are now 3-0 this season against the Lakers, clinching
the season series.

“It’s not a good feeling at all,” said Kobe Bryant, who led
the Lakers with 20 points and 11 assists, but was a staggering -35 on the
defensive end, worst in the game. “When things got difficult we didn’t step up
and meet the challenge. I’m not very happy about this and I hope my teammates
feel the same way.”

The Lakers have plenty of time to reflect on a season in
which much more has gone wrong than has been positive, as their 25-29 record
shows.

The Clippers, on the other hand, have been brilliant for
most of the season and go into All Star Weekend at 39-17, the fourth-best
record in the NBA.

All of the Clipper starters were in doubles figures in
scoring, with Paul putting together a double-double of 24 points and 13
assists. He was joined by Blake Griffin who had 22 points and 10 rebounds and center
DeAndre Jordan’s 11 points and 12 boards. 
The Clippers had 101 points through the first three quarters.

After the game Paul talked about how crucial it was for his
team to go into the break with a dominating performance.

“It was very important,” said CP3, who will start for the
West in Sunday’s All Star Game along with Clippers’ teammate Griffin and the Lakers’
Bryant and Howard.

“It’s going to be tough right away to start the second half
of the season right away next Thursday, with our first game being against the
Spurs. So we know what’s ahead for us.”

But back to Thursday’s rout.

“This was a great team win. And how about Chauncey Billups
tonight? I was excited to see him on the stage of this big game” Paul said of
his backcourt mate.

Nicknamed “Mr. Big Shot” for all his clutch performances in
big games throughout his career, Billups hit all five of his 3-point attempts
and finished with 21 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds in
just his fourth game back since a foot injury forced him to the sidelines for
35 games.

Griffin said that it was nice to be 3-0 against their
hallway rivals this season, but the Clippers focus isn’t just on beating the
Lakers, but on defeating every other team they play.

“It’s important to get these wins,” Griffin said. “It’s
great. But we’re not concerned about just them. We still have to play a lot of
other teams. This isn’t going to come down to us against them. There are a lot
of good teams in the West.”

The Clippers are certainly one of them. In fact, Vinny Del
Negro’s crew is one of the best in the league and is considered a legitimate
contender for the NBA title.

The Lakers? They’re just trying to become respectable.

THOUGHTS ON JERRY BUSS

Reports from various media outlets say that Lakers owner Dr.
Jerry Buss is gravely ill at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The Los Angeles Times
reported that the 79-year old Buss is battling an undisclosed form of cancer
and radaronline.com stated that many current and former Lakers have visited
Buss, feeling he might have just days left to live.

Neither the Lakers nor the hospital would confirm the
reports.

The city of Los Angeles, basketball fans in general and
Laker fans in particular owe Buss a huge debt of gratitude. He has presided
over the most successful era in American sports history, with his Laker teams
winning 10 championship in his first 30 seasons of owning the franchise. His blueprint
for taking a somewhat lackluster product and turning it into “Showtime” was
trendsetting for an NBA which at the time was nowhere near as popular as it is
today. It was struggling so badly for an audience — in person or on television —
that Finals games were being shown on tape delay, except in the cities of the
teams that were playing.

Drafting Magic Johnson right after he bought the team from
Jack Kent Cooke, along with his creating the Laker Girls, turned the chemistry
professor from Wyoming into a respected — and powerful — leader in the pantheon
of sports owners.

“He’s extremely intelligent and extremely patient,” said
Bryant, one of the players who was reported to have visited Buss recently. “He
has his goals. He knows what he wants to do and how he’s going to construct a
ballclub, and he’s extremely smart in how he goes about it.

“It’s very rare to find that owner who seemingly doesn’t
make any mistakes. He’s pretty impressive.”

And not just for his successes, but for just being Jerry
Buss.

Despite his wealth and the lifestyle that accompanies it,
Buss hasn’t forgotten what it was like to grow up in the Midwest and fight to
earn everything he has. From years of being around him, dealing with him and
watching how he carries himself, he is, in my opinion, the most regular sports
owner in history.

A few nights a year at the Forum, he would stay with us
media types in the Press Lounge, having drinks and playing Trivia Games until
six or seven in the morning. Find another multi-millionaire or billionaire sports
mogul who would do that. Oh yeah: All the food and drink was courtesy of Dr.
Buss.

Here’s to a great owner and a great man. … And here’s hoping
he can beat the odds one more time. Thanks Jerry. Being around the Lakers for
the last three decades has been one of the best experiences of my life. Good or
bad. Win or lose.

Thanks to Jerry Buss it has never been dull.