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Rivalry takes back seat to Lakers' playoff push

The Lakers consider Sunday's matchup against the Clippers as a must-win in order to make the playoffs and not as a big rivalry game. The Clippers already have won the season series.

April 06, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers center Dwight Howard strips the ball from Clippers center DeAndre Jordan
Lakers center Dwight Howard strips the ball from Clippers center DeAndre… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

The indignity of losing the season series to the Clippers happened already. The Lakers need a win Sunday for more important reasons.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said Saturday. "We've got to make the playoffs and this is a big game for us. I'm not worried about if they're Clippers or not Clippers."

Dwight Howard wasn't really feeling this Lakers-Clippers thing either. It wasn't a rivalry in his eyes.

"I don't pay attention to it. I thought the big rival was Boston," he said.

After an embarrassingly one-sided 125-101 loss in February, the Lakers fell to 0-3 against the Clippers and surrendered the regular-season series for the first time since 1992-93.

It was big at the time, a possible passing of the torch as NBA followers contrasted the Lakers' awkward struggles to the Clippers' new success, including a 17-game winning streak that lasted all of December.

Clippers > Lakers!

But then the Clippers started losing ground to San Antonio and Oklahoma City atop the Western Conference while the Lakers, left for dead at 25-29 after that February loss, started showing a little something … if "something" is defined as finally looking like a playoff team, even if it's the eighth and final one from the West, a title they still can't claim yet.

The Lakers (40-36) lead ninth-place Utah by half a game. Five of their final six are at Staples Center, including Sunday's designated Clippers home game.

They'll try to slow the pace against the Clippers, Howard saying they need to "pound the ball in the paint" to stop the Clippers from scoring at will at the other end.

"Once they're off running, it's tough," he said.

And, sure, there's one bit of Lakers-Clippers history yet to examine.

In the 42-year existence of the Clippers' franchise, the Lakers have been swept only once in the season series — in 1974-75, when the Clippers were still the Buffalo Braves.

D'Antoni, however, tried to put a happy face on the state of the current season series.

"If they won three and we won one, we'll be happy," he said.

World Peace coming?

The Lakers have reduced Metta World Peace's recovery timetable to four to six weeks, D'Antoni said.

He was expected to be out at least six weeks after undergoing surgery to have torn cartilage removed from his left knee.

Of course, the timetable shift only matters if the Lakers get past the regular season, which ends April 17.

World Peace started light jogging Friday and did some shooting Saturday at the team's training facility. He has been sidelined since getting injured March 25 against Golden State.

Nash still out

Steve Nash is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game after sitting out the Lakers' practice Saturday.

He missed the last two games and left two others early because of hip and hamstring soreness.

"We're shooting for Tuesday, hopefully," D'Antoni said. The Lakers play host to New Orleans that day.

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

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