Change of the guard
LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul held up the red T-shirt reading “Can’t Stop Los Angeles” for a quick post-game photo. He didn’t put it on, and neither did his Clippers teammates.
There was no celebrating on court or in the locker room after they beat the Lakers 109-95 on Sunday to clinch the Clippers’ first Pacific Division title in franchise history against a team that has long overshadowed them.
“It just feels like something we were supposed to do,” said Paul, who had 24 points and 12 assists. “It means we’re headed in the right direction. We’re not satisfied. We understand this is something small compared to the big picture.”
Blake Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds as the playoff-bound Clippers swept the Lakers 4-0 for the first time since Donald Sterling bought the team in 1981.
The 1974-75 team, known as the Buffalo Braves, had the franchise’s only other sweep of the Lakers.
Fans chanted, “Sweep! Sweep!” in the closing seconds.
Sterling accepted a congratulatory handshake from a fan after the game.
“It’s always good to sweep a team in your division, in the West,” said Griffin, savoring the first division title of his young career. “I’m proud of how we won the game a little bit differently. We kept up a nice tempo the whole game.”
Jamal Crawford had 20 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had 13 rebounds, and Caron Butler scored 14 points for the Clippers, who knew that even if they lost, they could have clinched later Sunday if Utah won at Golden State.
“We didn’t want to do it that way,” Paul said. “We wanted to clinch on our own terms.”
As the division winner, the Clippers are guaranteed a top-four seed but will only open the playoffs with home-court advantage if they finish the season with a better record than the team in fifth, which currently is Memphis.