Whether Lakers-Clippers qualifies as a worthwhile NBA rivalry remains open for debate.
What was not disputable Wednesday night inside Staples Center was which team enjoyed itself more.
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer danced and forward Blake Griffin repeatedly dunked while the Lakers largely disgusted their pockets of fans during a 114-89 defeat that felt a lot like the record wallopings the Clippers administered on their co-tenants last season.
Griffin finished with 27 points on nine-for-13 shooting to go with nine rebounds and eight assists, his triple-double bid falling short only because he sat out a fourth quarter in which his team led by as many as 43 points.
His dunks continually wowed the crowd during a designated Clippers home game. Griffin took advantage of the lane mysteriously clearing of Lakers defenders late in the second quarter to drive for a windmill dunk and later added a ferocious left-handed slam.
A noticeably more aggressive Chris Paul tallied 24 points on nine-for-15 shooting as well as 11 assists to help the Clippers notch their fifth consecutive triumph over the Lakers, tying a franchise record. The Clippers have won nine of the last 10 games in the series.
“It all started with our defensive intensity,” Paul said. “We played with better pace and that starts on the defensive end.”
It was another rough night for Kobe Bryant, who hardly seemed rejuvenated two days after sitting out a game to rest. The Lakers star missed his first eight shots and did not score until making a 10-foot jumper with 5:49 to play in the third quarter and his team trailing by 30 points.
Bryant added a turnaround fadeaway jumper a few minutes later and finished with a season-low four points on two-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He last finished with so few points in December 2013 against Oklahoma City.
“I was trying to rush things, change momentum to get us back in it a little bit,” Bryant said, “but I didn’t play any different than I normally play.”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said his team’s ball movement, spacing and defensive intensity reminded him of the way it was playing late last season when it was at its best.
“It was one of those flashes from the end of the year, how we were playing,” said Rivers, whose team has been plagued by inconsistency this season, “and that’s what we have to get back to.”
The Lakers were missing guard Ronnie Price (broken nose, flu) and forward Wesley Johnson (strained hip flexor), but it hardly seemed to matter on a night the Clippers triggered Lawler’s Law — first team to 100 points wins — in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
Ballmer boogied in the early going, but it had nothing to do with his team scoring a season-high 70 points in the first half. Pop star Fergie sat next to the billionaire before giving a brief performance during a timeout.
“I’ll put it this way: He danced exactly how I expected him to,” Griffin said of Ballmer. “But his enthusiasm was fun.”
Hours after tweeting that he was not feeling well in far more colorful language, Clippers forward Matt Barnes played as if he was just fine. He scored 19 points while playing strong defense on Bryant.
“I just felt terrible during the day,” Barnes said, “and once I got moving, running, I felt better.”
Highlights were hard to find for the Lakers.
Rookie Jordan Clarkson scored a team-high 14 points and Jeremy Lin made a buzzer-beater two nights after hoisting a late airball against the Portland Trail Blazers. Too bad this one was a three-pointer that pulled the Lakers to within 10 points at the end of the first quarter.
“They came out and punched us and we were soft,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “Period.”
Scott didn’t get any argument from Bryant, who had called his team “soft like Charmin” during a recent practice.
“He said the same thing I said,” Bryant said of his coach. “He just didn’t use the toilet-paper analogy.”
No matter how anyone phrased it, it was just another night the Lakers would rather flush.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch