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For Clippers, matchup against Lakers has larger ramifications

The team hopes to clinch the Pacific Division championship and gain a stronger position heading into the playoffs.

April 07, 2013|By Broderick Turner
  • Blake Griffin, center, and the Clippers will go for a season sweep of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center.
Blake Griffin, center, and the Clippers will go for a season sweep of Dwight… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

This game is more than just about the rival Clippers and Lakers playing a significant game on Sunday.

For the Clippers, this game at Staples Center, in which they're the designated home team, is about trying to win the franchise's first Pacific Division championship.

It's also about the Clippers' race with Denver and Memphis for the third, fourth and fifth positions in the Western Conference and about trying to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.

"I think the most important thing is we're starting to play better," said Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who played for the Lakers last season. "The opportunity for a division championship is a great accomplishment for this franchise. But we're still looking at the bigger picture. We want to start playing more consistent and get ready for the playoffs."

The Clippers need just one more win, or a Golden State Warriors' loss, to take the Pacific Division title.

To be sure, the Clippers would love nothing better than to beat the Lakers and keep tenuous that team's hold on the final playoff berth in the West.

Additionally, the Clippers have never swept the Lakers since Donald Sterling purchased the team in 1981.

During the 1974-75 season, the franchise, then known as the Buffalo Braves, swept the Lakers 4-0.

"It's always a big game for them and for us," Barnes said. "It's sort of the battle for L.A. We've gotten the upper hand thus far. But we just want to continue to get better, see if we can sweep them for the first time."

The Clippers have six regular-season games left to get their game back in order. They won their last game after losing the previous three in a row.

Barnes thinks the Clippers have lacked energy lately, leading to poor defense.

"We may have hit a wall as a team mentally, I think, more than anything — not physically," Barnes said. "I just think mentally we hit a wall. We've had some stuff go up and down. We've just got to lock in right now. We still have a chance for a tremendous opportunity for this season. We've got to take advantage of it."

Sixth man candidate

Jamal Crawford won the NBA's sixth man of the year award in 2009-10, when he played for the Atlanta Hawks.

Crawford has made a case to win the award again by averaging 16.7 points per game for the Clippers, third-best. He has scored 453 points in the fourth quarter of games, the third-highest in the league behind two starters.

"I think when you look back on your NBA career, I think anything that you can get is pretty cool," Crawford said. "Honestly, it would be an accomplishment to whoever gets it, because their team has to play well. So it's a team-thing first."

Injury update

Barnes said his sprained left ankle was "sore and not in too much pain, so I'm fine."

Barnes, who practiced Saturday, will play against the Lakers.

Blake Griffin (sore left calf) and DeAndre Jordan (hip) will play, but Chauncey Billups (strained right groin) won't play.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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