The Battle of LA
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Battle Of LA Has Been A Rollercoaster

When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined the Clippers last year, the media quickly claimed that the Battle of LA had shifted into overdrive. The elite duos of Leonard with George and LeBron James with Anthony Davis made it a foregone conclusion that the Western Conference would run through Los Angeles and that the inevitable conference finals between the two teams would be an epic showdown, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the reformatted NBA Playoffs shook up that plan. The Lakers claimed the championship in the bubble while the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in embarrassing fashion, and the basketball world was robbed of another thrilling matchup between James and Leonard. The Lakers reloaded for a championship repeat while the Clippers scrambled to add more talent around their duo, but the Battle of LA took another dramatic turn in the playoffs.

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After a hot start to the season, injuries decimated the Lakers and they limped into the playoffs as the seventh seed, and only qualified for the postseason after defeating the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament. Across town, the Clippers were criticized after tanking their final regular-season games, apparently with the intent of avoiding the Lakers in the first round, but the Lakers suffered more injuries and they were dispatched by the Phoenix Suns in the first round after an electrifying Game 6 performance from Devin Booker in Staples Center. Meanwhile, the Clippers were in jeopardy after Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks stormed out to a 2-0 series lead heading back to Texas, but they showed resilience to come back and win the series in seven games. Many were claiming that George and Leonard were dead in the water after Dallas got off to a hot start in Game 3, but that was not the case. Things took a complete 180 in less than a year, as the Lakers went from defending champions to a first-round exit while the Clippers look like they could make real noise against the Utah Jazz in the second round.

There could once again be another thrilling offseason in the NBA after the 2021 Playoffs. While the Lakers sat high and mighty last winter following new contracts for both James and Davis, the Clippers have some work to do. George has already committed to his hometown with a lucrative extension, and the team hopes Leonard will do the same, but a number of teams will be vying to get him out of LA. Without Leonard, the Clippers would be in big trouble, as they have already dolled out extensions to many other players, including Patrick Beverly, Luke Kennard, and George. While Leonard has not publicly indicated any desire to leave his hometown, one must assume he will take some time before making his next move. As for the Lakers, concern exists that their bubble title might be the only title they win. James’ high ankle sprain that he suffered earlier in the season was one of the most severe he has suffered to date, and at age 36 James will not be getting any better year to year. It is unfortunate to see one of the games’ all-time greats finally regress, but he deserves commendation for being one of the only players ever to make a serious run at Michael Jordan’s title of GOAT.

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