Even as the Los Angeles Lakers went into a rebuild that overlapped with the Clippers reaching previously unforeseen heights as a franchise, the Southern California area very much remained a stronghold for the purple and gold.
Now as the Clippers usher in yet another new era, they face the same uphill battle against a Lakers team and fanbase that’s been reinvigorated by the signing of LeBron James. But with James unable to play as he recovers from a strained groin, the Clippers won a 22nd game in the last 25 head-to-head meetings.
They turned the tide behind a defensive-minded lineup that Lakers head coach Luke Walton believed caused his team to ‘splinter’ as they squandered a lead. While Lou Williams carried the Clippers with a game-high 36 points, Montrezl Harrell helped provide tenacity.
He first exchanged words with Walton after making an off-balance basket that had his momentum carry into and brush up against the Lakers head coach’s shoulder. Harrell appeared to shout in Walton’s direction as he backpedaled on defense.
“If he yelled, I don’t know. I didn’t hear him yell at me,” Walton said after the Lakers’ 118-107 loss.
The Clippers flipped the game on a 22-0 run that began in the third quarter and bled into the fourth. Boos rained down as the final seconds ticked off the clock and Harrell waived his hands to egg them on.
“I love it,” he said of the boos. “I love it, because they already don’t recognize us as a so-called L.A. team but we don’t really care about that. But we want y’all to know that we’re the L.A. Clippers. That means Los Angeles Clippers, man. So there’s two teams in L.A.
“Y’all try to overlook us, just because of everybody in that purple and gold and the history of it. Yeah, I respect that. But that don’t mean [expletive] to me. Oh, excuse my French; that don’t mean nothing to me. I come out here and play for my team and for the guys that I am on the floor with. At the end of the day, y’all are gonna have to recognize us, man. We are going to make you understand who we are.”
What exactly the Clippers would need to accomplish in order to unseat the Lakers as top billing in Los Angeles presumably is nothing short of improbable. The Lakers have a rich history behind 16 NBA titles, while the Clippers have yet to so much as reach the Western Conference Finals.
But that’s not of any concern to Harrell. “Don’t really know, don’t really care, you know?” he answered when asked how the Clippers could ascend in popularity. “But we’re going to keep doing what we need to, to make sure y’all see that we’re here.”
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