Before the Clippers played the Lakers on Wednesday night, Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy summed up the reigning NBA champions this way: "You're always aspiring to get where they are."
Then for one night, at least, the Clippers got there -- and ended their nine-game losing streak against their Staples Center roommates.
It was evident even before the game ended when, after a timeout was called with just under three minutes left, Clippers center Chris Kaman smiled broadly as he walked to the Clippers bench.
The Clippers were led by the aggressive play of veteran guard Baron Davis, who scored 25 points and especially helped the Clippers beat the Lakers near the basket.
The Clippers scored 54 points in the paint compared with 34 for the Lakers.
"I didn't think we had one quarter where we lacked the intensity that we needed to win," adding that despite losing a big lead to the Lakers in the third quarter, "we responded, held our composure, make some big shots. Our chemistry is coming together."
The Clippers (16-18) moved one game closer to .500, and ending the losing streak against the Lakers made the win even more gratifying, said Kaman.
"Overall, it was a great team win and we finished it at the end" after the Lakers tied the score early in the fourth quarter, he said.
Dunleavy praised his team for "really controlling the tempo of the game and making great decisions."
The Clippers disputed a report that injured rookie forward Blake Griffin would make his debut Jan. 20, and said the date of his first game remained undecided.
"We have no target date," the team said in a statement. "The final stages of this process are yet to unfold, and it's not possible for anyone to predict its precise outcome."
Griffin has yet to play because of a stress fracture in his left kneecap.
But he's been on a rehabilitation regimen, and Yahoo Sports, quoting an unidentified source in the NBA, reported that the Clippers had targeted his debut for Jan. 20, when the Clippers play the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center. The Clippers then leave on an eight-game road trip.
But Dunleavy said before Wednesday's game the date was "the first we've heard of it" and that a Jan. 20 debut "seems pretty optimistic."
In the meantime, Griffin has steadily progressed in his workouts, Dunleavy said.
"He's on a treadmill running full speed" and has been "doing stuff on the court as far as shooting -- low-impact stuff -- but the guy keeps getting ramped up," he said.
Asked whether the Clippers anticipated the league's No. 1 draft pick playing a specific role when he finally arrives, Dunleavy said, "I'll just be happy to get him out there. At this point, there aren't a whole lot of expectations as far as where he's at."
The indefinite suspension of the Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas for reportedly bringing guns into the locker room was "nothing but the topic around the [Clippers'] locker room, around the practice court," Dunleavy said.
"Our guys have been well-versed and schooled [about the rules] between the club and the league, and I don't think anybody was not clear about what could or could not be done in that regard," Dunleavy said. "It's just unfortunate for Gilbert."