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It really was fun while it lasted for the Clippers

They hang in there with enthusiasm and effort before falling to San Antonio and being swept from the playoffs. When was the last time anyone described the Lakers as enjoyable or full of effort?

May 20, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Spurs power forward Tim Duncan consoles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin after Game 4 on Sunday night at Staples Center.
Spurs power forward Tim Duncan consoles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

I'm sitting here watching a game the Clippers have no chance of winning and it's still a hoot.

Who gets up for a game when already down three games to none to the Spurs and losing the last one after being up by 24?

The Clippers should be deflated, but they are winning, 75-74, after three quarters. Their playoff run is over, and yet they don't seem to know it.

Inspired effort is what fans have been getting from the Clippers all season long, and right now there are 19,000 fans on their feet. They had to come here knowing this was doomsday.

Yet everyone in Lob City is wearing red again, the place alive with noise and so this is what it's like to have fun at a basketball game.

You forget that when you're a Lakers fan.

Winning is the only thing that is fun. Winning championships, as we're repeatedly reminded, is the only thing that counts.

But who had a better time this season, Clippers or Lakers fans?

How does anyone root for the Lakers? I understand history, tradition and all those trophies, but right now how does anyone invest everything they have in these players?

What is it like to expend so much energy loving the Lakers and getting Andrew Bynum in return? Do you think that for one second of his life he gives a rip about any of you?

The Clippers are not the Lakers, and probably never will be as long as most of us live.

But name the last time fun and Lakers were mentioned in the same sentence? Anything but winning seems to result in anger, fans wanting Coach Mike Brown fired and the players now pointing fingers at each other.

Chris Paul is every bit as competitive as Kobe Bryant. But I can't imagine Paul throwing blame Blake Griffin's way as Bryant has done with Pau Gasol.

If Griffin turned the ball over, somehow got it back and missed the shot, or stepped out of bounds or forgot to shoot and the clock ran out, Paul would say it was all his fault.

But when Gasol made an errant pass, according to Plaschke's online column, Bryant told reporters: "It was a bad read. It was a bad read on Pau's part.''

A kid does that in high school and he gets reprimanded by his coach, his parents and his teammates for singling out a teammate.

Yet Bryant goes on. "Pau has to be more assertive; he's got to be more aggressive. He's looking to swing the ball too much. He just has to shoot it."

All that's true, and add in the frustration that comes with cheering for Gasol while he whines about every foul called and plays so soft at times.

But after a stinging defeat, to get stung again by a teammate -- and a teammate of Bryant's caliber -- is too much.

It's not the first time. This is the same guy who looked as if he would need to be taken him off the court in a straitjacket after Metta World Peace passed the ball to Steve Blake for a last-second three-point attempt earlier in the series.

The pass went to the wide-open player, but the problem is it didn't go to Bryant, who let his anger show while tugging at his jersey.

Yet the Lakers remain the most popular team in town, and by far, because of their history, tradition and trophies.

How about raw enthusiasm, such as Eric Bledsoe going from one end of the court to the other as if he has his foot stuck on the gas pedal?

How about incredible effort and excitement, as the Clippers keep pace with the Spurs when they should be lying down, as the Lakers did a year ago when they were down 3-0 to Dallas?

But the Clippers have already shown they won't quit, coming from 27 down to Memphis and winning, and then coming back to win Game 7 in Memphis.

Do the Lakers have what it takes to stick together when pressed to the limit?

Surely the Clippers are going to lose this game, but of course they are, aren't they?

"It has been a good one," Marv Albert tells the TV audience, and who expected that? And that was before Paul's acrobatic, mind-boggling drive that resulted in a three-point play to give the Clippers a 97-96 lead with 2:26 remaining.

In the end it would come down to Paul, and twice he would have the chance to tie the game in the closing seconds. And twice he would fail.

There will be no storybook ending, but it really has been a storybook season, when you consider the injury to Chauncey Billups and the gutty finish in Memphis.

Paul has now lost twice in the playoffs to the Spurs, "once in seven games and now in four," he said. "I've got to get better personally."

And so as the Clippers walked off the court after having been swept, they still heard from the fans, and it was applause.

"I will think about those two missed opportunities for the whole off-season," Paul said. "But I want to tip my hat to the Clippers' faithful and I want them to know this isn't it."

Who thinks the Lakers would hear the same thing if or when they fall to the Thunder?

But then it's all about winning, isn't it?

BLAME L.A.'s lost playoff weekend on Lee Zeidman. He oversees Staples Center for AEG, the building getting more hype over the last few days than any of the teams playing in it.

Zeidman had the fans coming downtown so terrified of traffic, the nervousness must have spread to the Clippers, who blew a big lead, the Lakers, who blew a big lead, and the Kings, who obviously didn't want a celebration to delay another Clippers game.

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