Lakers-Clippers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 06, 2013
After capturing their franchise-record 50th victory, the Los Angeles Clippers have an opportunity to reach another milestone. Fittingly enough, it could come against their Staples Center co-tenants. The Clippers look to clinch the first division title in their 42-year history and deliver a big blow to the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff hopes Sunday. The Clippers (50-26) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 126-101 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday, topping the single-season record for wins set in 1974-75 when the team was in Buffalo. "It's big,'' said center DeAndre Jordan, who led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds, "but we're looking at the bigger picture. This is one thing we can check off.'' Now the Clippers can add a division title to their list of accomplishments and end the Lakers' five-year stranglehold on the Pacific with a win or a Golden State loss to Utah on Sunday. After taking the first three matchups by an average of 13.0 points, the Clippers also have a chance to sweep this season series for the first time since 1974-75. "Whenever you do something first it's significant, but we expect more and we should,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. The Lakers will try to keep their hold on the final Western Conference playoff spot following a hard-fought 86-84 home win over Memphis on Friday. Kobe Bryant had 24 points and nine assists while Pau Gasol scored 19 and added nine rebounds for the Lakers (40-36), who won their third in a row and maintained a half-game lead over the Jazz for eighth place. The Lakers, winners of 13 of 15 at home, play five of their final six at Staples Center, though they're the road team for this game. "This is the big push for us,'' Bryant said. "We've got a very tough stretch, and we're excited. You want to be going into the playoffs feeling like you're playing good ball against tough opposition. It's been a lot of figuring out we had to do, but it's better late than never.'' Bryant totaled 78 points while shooting 29 for 48 from the floor in the first two meetings, then scored 20 with 11 assists in a 125-101 loss to the Clippers on Feb. 14. The All-Star guard has averaged 33.1 points and 55.5 percent shooting in his last seven in the series. Center Dwight Howard will try to bounce back after battling foul trouble and finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds Friday. He's averaged 61.3 percent shooting against the Clippers this season. While they'll be without forward Metta World Peace (knee) for at least four weeks, the Lakers could get healthier for this matchup. Point guard Steve Nash will be a game-time decision after missing the last two with a strained right hamstring. If he's able to play, Nash may face a challenge in keeping up with counterpart Chris Paul. The Clippers' All-Star has averaged 23.5 points and 14.3 assists in his last four against the Lakers. Forward Blake Griffin scored nine points Wednesday, but he's totaled 46 and shot 20 of 31 in the last two in this series. The Clippers have averaged 112.3 points and made 30 of 66 (45.5 percent) from 3-point range in the three games. The Lakers, though, have allowed 82.5 points and 10-for-33 shooting from beyond the arc in their last two.
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