The Lakers’ win over the Clippers was an epic, amazing game — and it was just the start

The biggest thing to come out of one of the best games of the NBA season wasn’t related to LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard. It wasn’t about home-noise advantage or bragging rights. It wasn’t about timely X-factors like Avery Bradley and not about Patrick Beverley’s mouth, nor the culling of the Los Angeles Clippers’ six-game win streak against their neighbors, the Lakers.

More than anything, it was about one thing: Anticipation. Our anticipation.

Sunday’s blockbuster slugfest was something special in its own right, but it quadrupled in value because it gifted us a promise of what is hopefully to come. The Lakers’ 112-103 victory at a Staples Center firmly in its favor, despite this being technically a Clippers home game, was a precursor.

It was passionately fought and intensely battled, played with fervor and commitment and a desire to prove who is boss. It was quality basketball, not just on a technical level but at that perfect kind of state when you know both teams really, truly want it.

Best of all, and as good as it was, it was a sneak peak. At some point past the middle section of April (most likely in the back half of May), the Lakers and the Clippers are likely to do it again. Just like this, but different, better and much, much longer.

These two heavyweights are powerful enough that 48 minutes allows for a ton of storylines to play out; imagine what a seven-game series spread over a couple of weeks would look like. Did you just think something along the lines of “that would be pretty cool,” with perhaps a naughty word mixed in for good measure?

Yeah, me too.

For all the Lakers’ excellence, and regardless of the outstanding individual seasons being put together by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there were still some questions surrounding them going into their pair of games over the weekend, first against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night and then the Clippers on Sunday.

The nagging bits revolved primarily around whether they could get it done against the biggest and best teams when it mattered most. In truth, such solutions will only truly be found come playoff time, but the weekend’s double dose of victory will certainly quell the critics for a while, and with good reason.

“It was very important, just to quiet the doubters,” Lakers center JaVale McGee told reporters. “The Lake Show … the best team in the world right now.”

There are differing philosophies at play, especially amid the weird and wonderful dynamic going on at Staples. It is the stuff soap operas are made of that two of the best teams in the league play out of the same building and are structured around wildly opposing mindsets.

The blue-collar Clippers are all about ultimate championship victory at whatever cost, including sacrificing wins and conference position in the regular season by carefully handling the workloads of Leonard and Paul George. The Lakers, this season, are all guns blazing, and are trying to ride the juggernaut all the way to a championship. Which, in part, is a major reason why Sunday’s game meant something greater than simply another “W” in the column.

“They had to win this game,” former NBA champion Stephen Jackson told First Things First on FS1. “It was a statement game. They got beat twice against the Clippers the last two games. LeBron heard all the talk. They wanted to shut the Clippers up and let them know the first two games they were not in their right mind.”

And now, after such a massive weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to win the NBA championship, at +260, according to FOX Bet, followed closely by the Bucks at +275 and the Clippers at +350. Those three are in a class all by themselves, with the Houston Rockets next at +1300.

Sorry to wish time away, but can we get to May already? Can we get to the Western Conference finals, which is where, assuming the Clippers can summon enough interest in the final few weeks of the campaign to avoid dropping to the four-seed, they would meet?

By then, with any luck, we won’t be talking about viruses or stock crashes and can focus on the election race that sports fans care most about … who gets sworn in as the kings of L.A.

It will be gritty and ferocious, and you just know there will be some serious beef that gets stirred up. There will be swings and fluctuations and, even now, can you really imagine it not going at least six games? It will be one of the highlights of this year’s sporting calendar, for devout basketball supporters and for plenty of others on the fandom’s fringes.

All that needs to happen now is for them both to take care of business to make the duel of duels a reality.

“We’ll see them again,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said.

Let’s hope so.