Lakers

'Soft' Lakers get blown out by 'teetering' Clippers

A negative vibe affects both teams as Clippers blow out the Lakers

Things are somehow worse than they look for the Lakers, who might be the only NBA franchise to ever have two starters with broken, disfigured noses.

Point guard Ronnie Price looked so bad that he appeared to have fought Muhammad Ali in his prime, Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. Price couldn't get off the mat to play the Clippers on Wednesday after taking an elbow to the face two days earlier against Portland.

Not that he missed much — a 114-89 Clippers blowout.

It's only a story these days when the Clippers don't pummel the Lakers. It's been that way since their 48-point victory last March amid a starburst of dunks and alley-oops.

What did you expect Wednesday? The Lakers started an aging Kobe Bryant, underachieving Jeremy Lin, hot-and-cold Jordan Hill (frigid in December), training-camp signee Wayne Ellington and offensively challenged Ed Davis.

Some people might insert "rapidly" in front of the aging part for Bryant. He looked every bit of 36 years, four months and 14 days despite staying home from Monday's game for more rest.

He had four points against the Clippers. He made two of 12 shots. He had his seven assists almost canceled out by six turnovers. He had a horrifying minus-34 plus/minus.

Seems like eons ago the Lakers went 28-3 against the Clippers earlier in Bryant's career. Now they have lost nine of their last 10 to them.

Funny thing, though. The Clippers haven't exactly been brimming with joy.

Their fans freaked out when they lost at home Monday to Atlanta. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers chided a reporter Wednesday during a pregame interview for never asking a "positive question."

Everyone seems to think the Clippers look mediocre compared to the rest of the Western Conference contenders.

The true definition of mediocrity, however, is now the Lakers.

An obviously peeved Scott called them "soft" four different times after the game while talking to reporters. It's not the first time that word has been used to describe them, in case anyone forgot Bryant's angry Charmin-themed rant at practice last month.

It's come to this: There's only two things left to watch until the Lakers' season ends April 15.

What will Bryant do next? And will they retain the top-five protected pick they owe Phoenix for the Steve Nash trade?

Bryant was again pass-first Wednesday, but Reggie Bullock outscored him at halftime, 2-0, and when was the last time something like that could be written?

Despite the divergent paths of the Clippers (24-12) and Lakers (11-25), there's one jump ball the latter wins with ease. They have 16 championships. The Clippers have never gone past the second round of the playoffs.

"It's still a Lakers town. Purple and gold," Scott said beforehand. "It's still not a rivalry as far as I'm concerned. Celtics-Lakers, that's a rivalry."

He added later, "You can't have a [legitimate] rivalry until both teams have competed for a championship."

The Clippers won't be doing that unless they improve their second unit. They also need success against more substantial teams so their coach stops saying they're "teetering."

"There's a day you feel like we're about to break [through], there's a day you're going back," Rivers said. "It's just been that type of year for us so far."

Rivers added another important point.

"I don't know if we're judged how we play the Lakers. I think we're going to be judged how we play the league," he said.

The last two weeks of April will be big for them. Then May, if they're lucky enough.

Those used to be setup months for Lakers' playoff runs that trickled into June and led to parades zigzagging down Figueroa.

That won't happen for a while, however long that might be.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan

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