The Los Angeles Lakers had a huge game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night that could have catapulted the purple and gold out of the Play-In Tournament and into the top-six in the Western Conference. With two games left to play, a win would have made it very hard to not be one of the top six teams in the West.
Instead, the Lakers continued their now 11-game losing streak to the Clippers in a game where the Clippers were better from start to finish. Outside of a brief flash of momentum in the third quarter, the Lakers simply could not keep up with the Clippers in this one.
This game had some extra juice as well as it was Russell Westbrook’s first game against his former team. Westbrook was not the best player for the Clippers on Wednesday but he definitely had a big impact, finishing with 14 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
The box score never tells the entire story for Westbrook (Lakers fans know that all too well). It was not his counting stats that won the Clippers this game; it was his obvious energy on the floor and how he absolutely brought it to LeBron James and the Lakers.
Russell Westbrook continues his job of making life hard for the Lakers.
The purple and gold still have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs but it will likely have to come via the play-in. As long as the Lake Show does not melt down in the last two games, they should be a seventh or eighth seed in the West and will essentially get two chances at it.
But that is still much different than if LA were to climb out of the play-in. In a perfect world, the Lakers would have been the sixth seed with a more favorable path to the Western Conference Finals.
That is likely not going to be the reality for the Lakers and Westbrook might be the main reason why. Not only did he play a big part in beating LA on Wednesday but he is the main reason why the team is in this position, to begin with. If LeBron and Anthony Davis had this roster around them all season then they would be in the top four, not the play-in.
Westbrook just never fit with the purple and gold and both parties are to fault. Westbrook didn’t change his game while with the team but Rob Pelinka is the one who made the ill-fated trade of adding someone who historically doesn’t change how he plays.
That Westbrook trade set the franchise back and significantly shrank the title window. Even with him now on a different team, Lakers fans were reminded of that on Wednesday night.