Either the Clippers or the Lakers were going to provide a panacea for what has ailed the other in recent games.
As it turned out Friday night, the Clippers found their remedy in the Lakers.
And it was Chris Paul who delivered the Clippers to a 107-102 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Staples Center.
Paul scored a season-high 30 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and had 13 assists in a game that was played with playoff intensity by both teams.
Bryant had 38 points on 15-for-25 shooting. It was the 20th time this season Bryant has scored 30 points or more in a game.
But this night belonged to Paul, who also had six rebounds in helping the Clippers break a two-game losing streak and improve to 2-0 against the Lakers this season.
Paul made two free throws for a 101-97 lead, then hit a big-time shot over Bryant that virtually sealed the win for the Clippers. He squared Bryant and drilled a jumper with 19.9 seconds left for a 103-97 lead.
"The shot clock was running down, and Kobe was forcing me left," Paul said. "I got a shot on him, and luckily it went in."
Paul added four more free throws in the final seconds of a win that left the Clippers 10 games ahead of the third-place Lakers in the Pacific Division. The Lakers have lost three of their last four games.
"He thrives in those moments," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said of Paul. "He just makes plays. He put us on his back at times and just kept going."
The Clippers had a 19-point lead early in the fourth quarter after a three-pointer by Lamar Odom .
As the Lakers inched closer in the fourth, getting to within 99-91, the Clippers started to intentionally foul Dwight Howard, the first time with 3:42 left.
Howard missed both free throws, leaving the Lakers down by eight points.
Howard was intentionally fouled again by Eric Bledsoe with 2:08 left. This time he made both free throws to pull the Lakes to within 99-95.
Howard finished the game with 21 points and 15 rebounds. But he was just five for 11 from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were taking and missing bad shots.
Paul missed two, one of which resulted in a 24-second violation.
Griffin missed a bad left-handed attempt.
That opened the door for Bryant, who made a jumper to pull the Lakers to within 99-97 with 1:29 left. But that was as close as they got.
"I've seen a lot of games, and I don't know if at both ends of the court anybody played better than that," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said of Bryant. "He got us back in the game."
Clippers sixth man Jamal Crawford didn't play because of sore left foot.
But the Clippers did get Caron Butler back after he missed the game against Golden State on Wednesday night for personal reasons. However, Butler didn't take part in Friday morning's shoot-around because of a sinus headache. He scored five points in the game.
The Lakers made a change to their starting lineup. D'Antoni started Metta World Peace at small forward after playing him as a reserve the previous six games.
World Peace, in foul trouble all game, finished with just two points on one-for-six scoring.
"I don't care about [the Lakers'] funk," Del Negro said before the game. "We've got to get out of this two-game funk ourselves. I only focus on what we can control, and that's us."
What the Clippers couldn't seem to control was their fouling.
Griffin and DeAndre Jordan each picked up two fouls in the first quarter, and both were forced to take a seat on the bench early in the game.
Still, that didn't stop the Clippers from running out to a 45-27 lead in the second quarter.
But the Lakers, playing like a somewhat desperate team, didn't just give in to the Clippers.
With the help of reserve Jordan Hill, who had 12 first-half points and five rebounds, and with Bryant scoring eight of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter, the Lakers got back to within four points, though they trailed 61-51 at halftime.