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Beards and dope. The spotlight in sports this week has been focused on everything but sports itself. Thankfully we have the Clippers and the Lakers here in Los Angeles to focus on, for one day at least.
The schedule had the Clippers and Lakers on TNT: the Clippers in Minnesota against the Timberwolves to open up the Heat-Lakers match up to close out the doubleheader. Both teams happened to figure into the pregame show when the TNT crew announced the NBA All Star starters. For the second consecutive year two Lakers and two Clippers were selected to start the game scheduled on February 17 in Houston. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul will roam the backcourt while Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard will guard the paint.
The Clippers opened with a 90-77 win over the T-Wolves. Both teams came into the game shorthanded. The Clippers were missing Chris Paul again missing out all game of this three-game road trip. He injured got a knee bruise after bumping into Orlando Magic's J.J. Redick on Saturday.
It is amazing that even without Paul the Clippers won all three games in this roadie: a 26-point win in Memphis on Monday followed by an eight point shootout win in Houston the next night. I guess having the league's best bench helps neutralize the pain of missing an MVP candidate.
Jamal Crawford led all scorers with 22 points including seven in the fourth quarter when the Clippers began to pull away from Minnesota.
Perhaps what was surprising was how close the T-Wolves were for most of the game. They had no Kevin Love who is out eight to 10 weeks with a broken right hand, and head coach Rick Adelman was still tending to his ailing wife, an illness Adelman wants to remain private.
With Terry Porter coaching in the interim, Ricky Rubio made his first start of the season in his 11th game played making six dishes in 27 minutes played.
This is a good sign for the Clippers, or a bad sign for the rest of the league. Without their best player and catalyst, the Clippers won three road games against some pretty good competition. The Clippers have 11 road games in their next 14 games which include the Grammy road trip that encompasses eight games in two weeks.
For the Lakers, some perspective was in order. They sounded like they were on top of the world after consecutive home victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks. But here came the Heat and out they went with a 99-90 win.
I didn't expect this game to be close, but the Lakers were very competitive in this game even getting the lead in the fourth quarter. But a 9-0 run to close out the game by the Heat proved too much for the Lakers.
The Lakers have lost seven of their last nine games now, but there is a stark reality for the team. They're not going to win a championship. Even if they make it to the playoffs by some feat of providence, they're not beating the Clippers, the Thunder, the Spurs in a best-of-seven game series.
Meanwhile for the three people in Southern California who are losing sleep watching the Australian Open like I am, one player to watch on the men's side is Juan Martin del Potro. The 2009 US Open champion is making a comeback after injuries set him back in 2010. After toiling in 2011 and 2012 getting his ranking back, he's looking awfully dangerous on the men's side.
But enough about this. I need to shower, get into bed and get ready for the Venus Williams-Maria Sharapova third round match.