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Lakers, Clippers display chippiness

December 22, 2011 | 10:09 am

One shove, one flop and one near-fight.

The moment Clippers forward Blake Griffin received the ball in the lane symbolized just how intense the Lakers-Clippers rivalry has become. And this was just a preseason game. Once Griffin received the entry pass, Lakers forward Matt Barnes pushed him to the floor. It caused Griffin to flop, both teams to nearly erupt in a fight and the 19,060 at Staples Center to yell.

The Lakers' 108-103 preseason loss Wednesday to the Clippers hardly matters, except, of course, to some of the fans who already see this as evidence the Mike Brown-era is doomed. But the atmosphere suggested otherwise.

"We're just trying to compete and I think we're upset they were flopping a little too much," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "I dont know if he flopped a couple more times than others. But it was just one specific play." 

That surely could've been the Barnes foul that earned him a flagrant. That surely could've been Griffin appearing to flop on Barnes' offensive foul in the final minute. That surely could've been when Josh McRoberts and Gasol roughed up Griffin nearly every time he drove inside. 

As much as the Lakers tried downplaying a preseason game, it's already clear blood's boiling.

"I thought we had good, solid, hard fouls," Brown said. "They called the flagrant and saw the replay. I didn't see the replay. They have to go with what the officials said."

Barnes didn't speak with reporters after the game, but the excitement level goes beyond the chippiness.  

The fans at Staples Center cheered when Chris Paul connected on an alley-oop lob to Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. They matched the same pitch level whenever Andrew Bynum used his agile footwork and physical frame to drive past Jordan in the post. 

There hasn't been quite a changing of the guard. The Lakers own 16 championships over the Clippers' zero. But clearly, L.A. fans benefit from having a young-and-upcoming team competing against a team trying to salvage its deeply rooted success. 

"It definitely didn't feel like a preseason game," Gasol said. "It's a nice rivalry with the Clippers."


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-- Mark Medina

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