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With Lakers flailing and L.A. there for the taking, Clippers fumble a chance thanks to Blake Griffin

Silly Clippers.

This was supposed to be their turn to lie out in the sun, to leave the Staples Center basement while the Lakers kept tumbling down the stairwell.

Their first chance came last May with a 3-1 series lead over Houston, and need it be rehashed?

Their second chance was now. Or more accurately, last week before reservations for four were made at a Toronto restaurant.

The Lakers are having another historically horrific season, losers of nine in a row after falling Friday to the Clippers, 105-93, but the only thing anybody wants to talk about is Blake Griffin.

The Clippers are on a 15-3 run and comfortably parked in fourth place in the Western Conference. If only their power forward didn't get a little too powerful with an assistant equipment manager.

Where's the tearful emoji? The sad trombone?

Don't call it a curse because Clippers officials will email you, call you, text you that there's no such thing. But there's something sad despite the thrill-a-minute roster.

The same-old-Clippers snickering would end more quickly if Griffin spoke publicly and issued a personal apology beyond three carefully worded sentences on Twitter. Mea culpa, anybody?

There would be questions from journalists, probing ones, and they wouldn't be lollipops. But another day without Griffin's words — his own — is another day of extending the news cycle.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers admitted that Griffin wasn't in attendance Friday "because you [media] guys are here," crammed into an interview room at Staples Center.

So Rivers had to tactfully meet with reporters before the Clippers' first game in L.A. since Griffin's escapade. He used wisdom, he employed humor and he made not one but two presidential references, saying he'd forgive Griffin because we'd been plenty lenient in the past as a society, even building a library in honor of Richard Nixon.

Rivers then acknowledged alcohol was consumed at the restaurant on fight night, but not much. Apparently.

"It depends on what you call 'alcohol.' I feel like Bill Clinton right now, but it really does," he said.

Fast forward to Friday's game, the small-ball Clippers playing in front of a mainly subdued audience until Lance Stephenson and DeAndre Jordan dunked on fourth-quarter possessions.

Not even Clipper Darrell seemed happy earlier, the team's No. 1 fan yelling out, "I paid my money and I want to see Kobe!"

Yeah, about that.

Bryant plays when Bryant wants to play and Friday wasn't one of those times. It was a designated Clippers home game and he doesn't really owe anything to their fans, after all.

It wouldn't have mattered. Bryant is too erratic. The Lakers will tie the franchise record for consecutive losses if they goof up Sunday against Charlotte.

Lakers Coach Byron Scott kept repeating the word "extremely" to describe how frustrated he was before Friday's tipoff. His mind-set wasn't uplifting after a numbingly boring loss Thursday to Chicago.

"I left last night and I said 'I need to go get a drink.' Honest," he said Friday. "Then halfway home, my girl said, 'You really want that drink?' I said, 'No.'

"I was dead serious. I needed a drink. But I'm not in AA so I'm not recovering or anything like that. So it's good to say, 'No.'"

One column, two alcohol references. Times are tough around here.

By the way, why didn't Jordan do more at the restaurant that night? The Clippers center is listed at 6 feet 11, 265 pounds.

He didn't need to go Floyd Mayweather Jr. on anybody. Don't make a bad situation worse. Just get between the pugilists. Box out Griffin. Or even the assistant equipment manager, who is not 6 feet 11 and 265 pounds.

The NBA's investigation into Griffin is moving quickly, Rivers hinted, a potential positive for a league that took 2½ months to assess a two-game suspension to Memphis forward Matt Barnes for fighting with New York Coach Derek Fisher at a Southland residence.

The Clippers might know their penalty sooner than expected, which is more than the Lakers can say. Their punishment comes from a more tough-to-discern source — the basketball gods.

They've fumbled away the final years of the Bryant era, leaving a fan base wondering in horror when the good times will return.

Silly Lakers.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 30, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "CLIPPERS 105, LAKERS 93 - BOXED OUT AT STAPLES - Griffin fisticuffs set back Clippers' latest bid to seize L.A. from Lakers" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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