The NBA: Who Owns Los Angeles?

Are Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul headed for a collision course in
the 2012 NBA Playoffs?
 *All images are from the Associated Press. 

Below is an interesting read from Bryant West of Bleacher Report. I expect that many Laker fans out there will probably disagree, but it still makes for an entertaining and informative article!

“If there are basketball gods out there, they will find a way to match up the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs.

This, of course, isn't likely at this point. The Lakers are seeded third in the West, and the Clippers are seeded fourth. The only way the two teams would meet with their current seeds would be in the Western Conference Finals, and unless the Memphis Grizzlies can leapfrog both squads, they won't be meeting in the first round.

Regardless of the probability, it's one of the more interesting matchups to consider. The Lakers are still considered the top dog of the L.A. squads, and Kobe Bryant and company have beaten the Clippers in two of their three games so far this season.

But how would these two teams fair in a seven-game matchup? Let's look at five reasons why the Clippers would beat the Lakers in a playoff series.

1) Young Legs: The Lakers have a distinct advantage in terms of experience. This is their greatest weapon against nearly any squad they could meet up with, but especially the Clippers, who only have two key rotation players (Chris Paul and Kenyon Martin) with serious playoff experience.

But one major advantage the Clippers have over the Lakers is youth. In this sped up NBA season, the Clippers still manage to look energetic nearly every night. Aside from Ramon Sessions (26) and Andrew Bynum (24), the Lakers key players are all over 30.

2) Kobe’s Health: Certainly there isn't serious concern that Kobe Bryant will miss time in the playoffs. Yet while he's continued to dominate all season, it's taken a toll on his body. He's averaging 38.5 minutes a contest, and no matter who you are or how tough you are, that has to be hard when you're an NBA star who already has 15 seasons under his belt.

He's missed the last seven games with a shin injury, which actually might help him come playoff time. It's given him an extended resting period, and the Lakers haven't exactly missed a step in his absence.

3) Clips Have Size, Too: The Lakers have, for years, had a size advantage that few teams could match. It was one of their biggest weapons in their past two championship runs. When healthy, Andrew Bynum (7'2") and Pau Gasol (7'0") are easily the most talented and dangerous big-man duo in the NBA.

While Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan don't exactly measure up in height to the Lakers (Griffin is 6'9", Jordan is 6'11") they're more athletic than Gasol or Bynum. Jordan isn't anywhere close to Bynum's level on offense, but he's an excellent defender, and if he can lock down on Bynum inside, the Clippers could turn the tables on the Lakers in the post.

4) Improved Depth: The Clippers certainly miss Chauncey Billups. When Billups went down with an ACL injury midseason, the Clippers not only lost a great weapon, but a great leader.

Still, the Clippers have worked to correct their depth issues in Billups' absence. They got Nick Young from the Wizards for basically nothing, and they have some sufficient depth with Young, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans.

While you couldn't exactly call the Clippers depth "threatening," it's easy to make the case that they have more than the Lakers. The Lakers bench consists of Matt Barnes, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Steve Blake. In a lengthy series, teams need to rely on their depth, and I'd pick the Clippers bench in that matchup.’

5) Chris Paul: Last season when he was with the Hornets, Chris Paul was a one-man wrecking ball against the Lakers in their first-round playoff matchup. While New Orleans lost in six, Paul averaged 22.0 points, 11.5 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals a contest while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 47.7 percent from downtown.

Sure, this year Paul would have to go up against Ramon Sessions instead of Derek Fisher, but Paul still has a huge advantage. He's shown he can elevate his play in the playoffs, and this year's Clippers team, while inconsistent, is still better than his Hornets club last year.”

In the playoffs, with a shot at the championship on the line, it’d be tough to pick the Clippers over the Lakers. The Purple & Gold just have too much experience and, honestly, they have one of the best, and biggest, Big Threes around. Still, considering how this will be Mike Brown’s first time to call the shots for the Lakers in the postseason, and how steady the Clippers have been of late, it’s not all too far-fetched for an upset to actually happen.

So who owns LA? Who knows? If the basketball gods will it, then we might just find out soon.

After the JUMP, April 17-19, 2012 stat-stuffers:

April 17, 2012 Game Recaps:
IND over PHI, 102-97
Danny Granger scored 24 points and the Pacers downed the freefalling 76ers, 102-97, on Tuesday. The Pacers, winners of six straight, have already clinched a playoff berth and are seeded third in the Eastern Conference -- four games ahead of the Celtics, who lost to the Knicks later Tuesday. Roy Hibbert added 15 points and 13 rebounds in the win, while David West had 13 points and George Hill finished with 12. The 76ers, meanwhile, have lost three in a row and are 11-21 since starting the season 20-9. They sit in eighth place in the East -- one game behind the Knicks and 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Milwaukee.

DET over CLE, 116-77
Brandon Knight scored a career-high 28 points to go along with seven assists as the Detroit Pistons dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 116-77, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Tayshaun Prince added 15 points, while Greg Monroe contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who had dropped five of their last six entering Tuesday's game. The win was Detroit's largest margin of victory all-time against the Cavaliers. The Piston's previous largest victory over Cleveland was a 109-74 decision on November 28, 2007. Manny Harris scored 18 points to pace the Cavaliers, who lost for the 17th time in their last 21 games.

MEM over MIN, 91-84
April has been horrendous to the Timberwolves. The Memphis Grizzlies extended Minnesota's misery in the month with a 91-84 victory Tuesday night. Rudy Gay scored 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Grizzlies, who are seeded fifth in the Western Conference and are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. Zach Randolph tallied 16 points and 11 boards, while Mike Conley had 16 points and eight helpers in Memphis' sixth victory in eight tries. J.J. Barea scored a season- best 28 points and dished out eight assists for the Timberwolves, who have lost 27 straight games in April. Their last victory in the month came April 8, 2009 at Golden State. Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 11 rebounds, but Minnesota lost its 11th in a row. They Timberwolves have also lost eight in a row to the Grizzlies.

NYK over BOS, 118-110
Carmelo Anthony had a triple-double, Steve Novak made eight three-pointers and the Knicks defeated the Celtics, 118-110, on Tuesday. Anthony had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double while Novak missed just two shots and finished with 25 points. J.R. Smith also scored 25 and Tyson Chandler added 20 points and seven rebounds. The Knicks moved into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the win, moving a game ahead of the 76ers, who lost to the Pacers earlier Tuesday. The Celtics would have clinched the Atlantic Division title with a win. They still lead New York by 3 1/2 games and are seeded fourth in the East, four games behind Indiana. Paul Pierce scored 43 points in the loss, Kevin Garnett had 20, Avery Bradley 17 and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 points and 13 assists.

SAS over LAL, 112-91
Tony Parker scored 29 points and handed out 13 assists as the San Antonio Spurs downed the Los Angeles Lakers, 112-91, at Staples Center. Tim Duncan added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Manu Ginobili finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Spurs, who earned their fourth straight win to take a half-game lead over idle Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference. Andrew Bynum had 21 points and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, which had its four-game win streak snapped to remain a half game ahead of the Clippers for the Pacific Division lead and the third seed in the West. Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes each scored 16 points in a losing effort.

April 18, 2012 Game Recaps:
CHI over CHA, 100-68
Richard Hamilton had 22 points and the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats, 100-68. John Lucas and Joakim Noah each added 12 points for the Bulls, who played without Derrick Rose (right foot) and Luol Deng (ribs). Carlos Boozer tallied 10 points and seven rebounds. Chicago remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Miami for the East's top seed. The Heat beat the Raptors on Wednesday. Kemba Walker ended with 16 points for the Bobcats, who extended their franchise- record losing streak to 18 games. Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson donated 14 and 13 points, respectively.

PHI over CLE, 103-87
Jrue Holiday went 6-for-6 from three-point range en route to 24 points as the 76ers defeated the Cavaliers, 103-87, at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday. Andre Iguodala recorded a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young finished with 12 points apiece as Philadelphia snapped a three-game skid. The Sixers now own a 2 1/2 game lead over Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East after the Bucks lost to the Wizards on Wednesday. Kyrie Irving returned for the Cavaliers after a nine-game absence, but scored just nine points. Samardo Samuels and Lester Hudson tallied 15 points apiece for the Cavs, who were swept by the Sixers for the first time since losing all three matchups in 2004-05.

WAS over MIL, 121-112
Jordan Crawford tied a season-high with 32 points on Wednesday and the Wizards defeated the playoff-hopeful Bucks, 121-112. Nene returned to the lineup after a 10-game absence and scored 14 points in the win. John Wall had 14 points and 10 assists and Kevin Seraphin also scored 14 for the Wizards, who were coming off of Monday's victory over the Bulls. The Bucks, losers of four of their last five, fell 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Philadelphia for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The 76ers beat the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Monta Ellis had 31 points and six assists in the setback, Brandon Jennings scored 25 and Drew Gooden finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

ATL over DET, 116-84
Tracy McGrady led six Hawks in double figures with 17 points as Atlanta used a first-half explosion to rout the Detroit Pistons, 116-84, on Wednesday. Ivan Johnson had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Josh Smith added 12 points and nine boards and Joe Johnson netted 13 for Atlanta, which tallied a season-high 72 points in the opening 24 minutes. The Hawks have won six of their last eight games. Atlanta is three games behind idle Indiana for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and moved a half-game ahead of Orlando, which is currently playing in Boston, for the fifth seed. Greg Monroe finished with 17 points, while Walker Russell tallied 15 for the Pistons, who have dropped six of their last eight contests.

MIA over TOR, 96-72
LeBron James netted a game-high 28 points and pulled down five rebounds in just three quarters of action as the Miami Heat rolled over the Toronto Raptors, 96-72, at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday. Mike Miller scored 13 points off the bench and Udonis Haslem added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Heat, who have won four straight contests. James Johnson paced the Raptors with 18 points and six rebounds, Alan Anderson had 15 points and DeMar DeRozan finished with 12 points for Toronto, which has lost six of its last eight games.

NYK over NJN, 104-95
Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points and Tyson Chandler added 18 points and 10 rebounds, as the Knicks inched closer to a postseason berth with an easy 104-95 win over the lowly Nets. The Knicks avoided a letdown a day after an emotional 118-110 victory over the Celtics, leading wire-to-wire on Wednesday to hold steady as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. They currently own a 3 1/2-game lead over ninth-place Milwaukee with four games remaining. J.R. Smith chipped in 15 points off New York's bench, contributing three of the club's 13 three- pointers. Gerald Wallace, who missed the previous four games with a sore hamstring, paced the Nets with 21 points, while Sundiata Gaines netted 18 points in their third straight loss.

BOS over ORL, 102-98
Paul Pierce had 29 points and 14 assists and the Boston Celtics clinched the Atlantic Division with a 102-98 win over the Magic on Wednesday. Avery Bradley had 23 points and Brandon Bass added 21 for Boston, which is seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference -- 3 1/2 games behind the Pacers. Rajon Rondo did not play in the win due to a sore lower back. He had handed out 10-plus assists in 23 straight games, but Pierce played the distributor, setting a career-high in assists. Glen Davis had 27 points against his former team and Jameer Nelson finished with 21. The Magic continue to play without Dwight Howard and sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference -- one game behind the Hawks, who defeated the Pistons on Wednesday.

DAL over HOU, 117-110
Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half to help the Dallas Mavericks down the Houston Rockets, 117-110, in a battle of Western Conference playoff contenders Wednesday. Vince Carter and Jason Terry provided sparks off the bench, netting 23 and 19 points, respectively, for the Mavericks, who picked up a much-needed victory after back-to-back overtime losses. Dallas moved into a tie with idle Denver for sixth place in the West. Houston, meanwhile, fell a half-game behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Seven Rockets finished in double figures, including Goran Dragic with 20 points and 10 assists, but they were outscored 39-26 in the fourth quarter to suffer their fifth consecutive loss.

LAC over DEN, 104-98
Kenyon Martin played villain against his former team on Wednesday, as he tipped in the go-ahead basket in the final minute and blocked Ty Lawson on the ensuing possession to lift the Clippers over the playoff-hopeful Nuggets, 104-98. Chris Paul scored 21 points and handed out eight assists for streaking Los Angeles, which has won five straight and remained a half-game behind the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead. Denver, which had won four of five coming in, is still in the seventh position in the Western Conference playoff race. Lawson had a team-high 24 points in the setback.

MEM over NOH, 103-91
Rudy Gay had 26 points, five rebounds and two blocks, as the Memphis Grizzlies clinched their second consecutive playoff berth by taking down the New Orleans Hornets, 103-91. Mike Conley added 20 points and five assists for the Grizzlies, who sit fifth in the Western Conference. O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph tallied 15 and 10 points, respectively. Jerome Dyson netted 24 points, while Carl Landry and Marco Belinelli each had 16 points for the Hornets, who had won four in a row. Jason Smith donated 12 points.

April 19, 2012 Game Recaps:
IND over MIL, 118-109
Danny Granger scored 29 points, George Hill had 22 and the Pacers downed the Bucks, 118-109, on Thursday. The Pacers, seeded third in the Eastern Conference, secured home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with their season-high seventh straight win. David West added 21 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, Paul George scored 14 and Roy Hibbert finished with 12. The Bucks, meanwhile, fell three games behind the 76ers for the East's eighth and final playoff spot. They have lost three straight and five of their last six games. Brandon Jennings had 27 points in the setback while Mike Dunleavy added 23 and Luc Mbah a Moute finished with 16 and 11 rebounds.

MIN over DET, 91-80
Nikola Pekovic led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds, and the Minnesota Timberwolves led wire-to- wire in a 91-80 defeat of the Detroit Pistons. Anthony Randolph netted 15 points and grabbed 10 boards, J.J. Barea finished with 13 points and 12 assists and Michael Beasley contributed 13 points off the bench as Minnesota ended an 11-game losing streak. Tayshaun Prince scored 18 points and Will Bynum supplied 17, all in the fourth quarter, but the Pistons dropped their fourth in five tries.

MIA over CHI, 83-72
LeBron James made sure Chicago's depth didn't play a factor in this late-season duel of the Eastern Conference's best. James scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists, while Dwyane Wade added 18 points and five assists as Miami downed Chicago, 83-72. Mario Chalmers helped out with 16 points, as Miami did just enough offensively and took advantage of Derrick Rose's absence to move within one game in the loss column of the Bulls for the East's top record. The Heat came out on top without Chris Bosh, who sat out as a precautionary measure and to rest for the playoff stretch. John Lucas led the Bulls with 16 points, while Joakim Noah posted a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Luol Deng chipped in with 11 points for the Bulls, who are just 7-6 in their last 13 games.

NOH over HOU, 105-99 (OT)
Eric Gordon scored a game-high 27 points as the New Orleans Hornets put a dent in the Houston Rockets' playoff hopes with a 105-99 overtime victory at New Orleans Arena. Carl Landry added 20 points, including seven in overtime, to go along with 10 rebounds while Al-Farouq Aminu finished with a season-high 17 points for the Hornets, who won for the fifth time in six games. Goran Dragic had 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds for Houston, which dropped its sixth straight game and fell a game behind Utah and Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with three games to play.

PHX over LAC, 93-90
Jared Dudley scored a team-high 18 points as the Phoenix Suns kept their playoff hopes alive with a 93-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at US Airways Center. Channing Frye added 16 points, Steve Nash finished with 13 and Marcin Gortat contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Suns, who moved into a tie with idle Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with three games to play. Houston sits a game behind both Phoenix and Utah after the Rockets fell to New Orleans earlier Thursday. Chris Paul had 19 points and 10 assists, while Blake Griffin netted 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, which fell to a game behind the Lakers for the top spot in the Pacific Division and the third seed in the West.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
April 17: Paul Pierce (BOS) – 43
April 18: James Harden (OKC0 – 40  
April 19: Danny Granger (IND) – 29

Paul Pierce and the Cs seem to be getting their game back
just in time for the postseason. 
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
April 17: Greg Monroe (DET), Roy Hibbert (IND), & Tristan Thompson (CLE) – 13
April 18: Marcus Camby (HOU) – 17
April 19: David West (IND) & Marcin Gortat (PHX) – 14

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
April 17: Tony Parker (SAS) & Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 13
April 18: Paul Pierce (BOS) – 14
April 19: JJ Barea (MIN) – 12

Tony Parker and the Spurs are, once again, finishing
as one of the best teams in the regular season.
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
April 17: Greg Monroe (DET), Paul George (IND), & Tony Allen (MEM) – 4
April 18: James Harden (OKC) & Iman Shumpert (NYK) – 4
April 19: Shannon Brown (PHX) – 4

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
April 17: Elton Brand (PHI) & Ben Wallace (DET) – 3
April 18: Ed Davis (TOR) – 3
April 19: Larry Sanders (MIL) – 4

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
April 17: Steve Novak (NYK) – 8
April 18: Devin Harris (UTA) & Jrue Holiday (PHI) – 6
April 19: Danny Granger (IND), Chase Budinger (HOU), & Jared Dudley (PHX) – 4

April 17, 2012 First Five
C – Tim Duncan (SAS) – 19pts, 8rebs, 3asts, 2stls
F – Carmelo Anthony (NYK) – 35pts, 12rebs, 10asts, 2stls
F – Paul Pierce (BOS) – 43pts, 4 treys, 3asts, 2rebs, 2stls
G – Brandon Knight (DET) – 28pts, 7asts, 4 treys, 2rebs
G – Tony Parker (SAS) – 29pts, 13asts, 3rebs, 1stl

Honorable Mention:
JJ Barea (MIN) – 28pts, 8asts, 5rebs, 5 treys, 1stl
Rudy Gay (MEM) – 28pts, 9rebs, 4asts, 1stl
JR Smith (NYK) – 25pts, 7 treys, 6asts, 4rebs, 1stl

April 18, 2012 First Five
C – Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) – 35pts, 5rebs, 3 treys, 2asts, 1stl
F – Rudy Gay (MEM) – 26pts, 5rebs, 4asts, 3 treys, 2blks, 1stl
F – Carmelo Anthony (NYK) – 33pts, 7rebs, 5 treys, 4asts, 1blk
G – Paul Pierce (BOS) – 29pts, 14asts, 5rebs, 2stls
G – Monta Ellis (MIL) – 31pts, 6asts, 3rebs, 3stls, 2blks

Honorable Mention:
LeBron James (MIA) – 28pts, 5rebs, 4asts, 2stls
Jordan Crawford (WAS) – 32pts, 4rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Andre Iguodala (PHI) – 19pts, 13rebs, 7asts, 3 treys, 2stls, 1blk

April 19, 2012 First Five
C – Nikola Pekovic (MIN) – 23pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 1blk
F – David West (IND) – 21pts, 14rebs, 7asts, 1blk
F – LeBron James (MIA) – 27pts, 11rebs, 6asts, 1blk
G – George Hill (IND) – 22pts, 8asts, 5rebs, 1stl
G – Eric Gordon (NOH) – 27pts, 5asts, 4rebs, 3stls, 1blk

David West and the Pacers have surprised many by finishing in the
Top 3 of the East.
Honorable Mention:
Goran Dragic (HOU) – 23pts, 8asts, 5rebs, 3 treys, 1stl
Danny Granger (IND) – 29pts, 5rebs, 4 treys, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk
JJ Barea (MIN) – 13pts, 12asts, 6rebs, 1stl

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*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Associated Press and the Sports Network.
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