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MORNING BRIEFING

Gap between the Lakers and Clippers keeps widening

October 30, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

The Champs versus the chumps.

Doesn't seem fair, does it, the lowliest of the low -- and not healthy at that, starting the season against the NBA's best team.

Now you know why Ralph Lawler called this "one of the 30 happiest nights" of his life -- before the game -- because his Clippers never look so good as when they haven't started the season.

Thirty opening nights for Lawler as the voice of the chumps, and while he'll have some explaining to do to the wife why his wedding night didn't make the top 30, the new-look Clippers couldn't do any better than hang with the Champs for a quarter.

"Nobody goes 23-1," Lawler said before the game, while reacting to Page 2's prediction for the Champs.

Maybe he's right, 24-0 still a possibility.

The chumps actually looked good if you didn't blink, Baron Davis the kind of showman Los Angeles fans love, but when Mike Dunleavy went to his bench, the game was over.

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre was sitting courtside, and could probably relate.

The Champs' reserves ignited a 17-0 run in the second quarter to remind the chumps where they belong in this rivalry, the Grand Canyon gap between these two franchises widening with the Lakers winning for the fifth consecutive time.

The chumps were down by 30 points in the final minutes of the third quarter, and while I'd like to say this is what happens to a team when it starts Tim Thomas, that's not exactly breaking news.

When the Champs' subs exploded, Thomas was the Clippers' go-to-guy on the court, and for some reason they did not score.

At least the chumps were smart enough not to appoint Chris Kaman as their go-to-guy.

Meanwhile, the Champs have now put together back-to-back stifling defensive performances, as if they really intend on doing this all season.

"The hardest thing to do is play up to expectations," Coach Phil Jackson said when asked whether his team might become overconfident. "You can't be impressed with yourself."

I told him the media would do whatever possible to help, even criticizing the players if it might help.

"I know I can count on you," Jackson said.

As for the chumps, Lawler's Law states the first team to score 100 points wins the game, and right now the Champs are winning 94-62. Hard to argue with the guy.

"The Lakers scored 96 points against Portland," Lawler said before the game. "It's going to take more than that tonight."

Right again, the Champs scoring 97 with 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. Make that 99, giving the Champs a 35-point lead, and what did the chumps ever do to tick off the Lakers?

The Champs now lead by 40, the gutsy chumps fighting back to cut the lead to 38 before it was over.

Maybe the chumps win a game this season, maybe the Champs never lose. Right now it's tough to say which is most likely to happen.

GOT A phone call at home Sunday. The guy said he was Marcus Camby and I laughed. But it really was the Clippers' Marcus Camby.

He wanted to apologize for calling Page 2 an obscene name last week. Gary Matthews Jr. must have misplaced Page 2's number.

I told Camby I was disappointed he called, knowing what fun we were going to have together. He said he "didn't want to mess" with Page 2, which is one way to put Page 2 out of business.

"No, no, that's just not me; you'll see," he said in explaining the rough start. "I apologize."

I'VE GOT two problems with the Clippers' choice for the national anthem. 1) They brought out Slash, a guitarist, to do a song that should always be sung at a sporting event, especially an exciting night like an opener or playoff game. 2) Slash wore a top hat. Why does the person doing the national anthem keep his hat on while everyone else takes theirs off?

DUNLEAVY'S WIFE must have laid out his clothes for the season opener. They all matched.

THE CLIPPERS spent a lot of time showing fans in the stands on the overhead scoreboard, including one pregnant woman who pulled her shirt up to show her bare belly.

"Remember there are kids here," the public address announcer said, and obviously one more on the way.

I WAS interested in more detail, of course, after Jackson mentioned Page 2 and Shakespeare in the same sentence a night earlier.

So Jackson tried to break it down, saying he considered Shakespeare a "wordsmith" and Page 2 a "word mason," later a helpful Clippers employee explaining, "I think what he was trying to say is that Shakespeare painted pictures while you paint houses."

And people wonder why I sometimes come across like Iago.

TMZ HAS a video on its site, showing who they say is Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, playing the role of peacemaker in a late-night scuffle outside the Key Club in Hollywood.

I watched the video and this big guy who looks like Penny does pitch in and help, but then just disappears, clinching it for me. That's Penny, all right.

THE CLIPPERS kept the locker room closed after being demolished by the Champs, insiders saying later Baron Davis had called a team meeting.

Davis reportedly lambasted his teammates.

Never too early to have that first team meeting.

--

t.j. simers@latimes.com

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