The Los Angeles Lakers are feeling good about themselves lately, but they’re not about to overlook their crosstown rivals.
The Lakers will be trying to match their longest winning streak of the season on Saturday when they face the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Lakers (37-17) won their sixth straight on Wednesday, beating Phoenix 130-124 on the road. The Lakers, who posted their second-highest scoring total, have averaged 116.0 points during the run while outscoring opponents by nearly 14 per game.
“We are playing very well, so our confidence is naturally pretty high, and we feel like there are a lot of things we are able to recognize as a group, both on the offensive floor and the defensive floor,” said Kobe Bryant, who scored 41 points. “Our confidence stems from the fact that we can adjust play by play and quarter by quarter, and not lose too much rhythm in doing it.”
Wednesday’s victory moved the Lakers into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the Suns, who were playing their first game with former Laker Shaquille O’Neal. Phoenix moved a half-game ahead of the Lakers with Friday’s win over Boston, but the Lakers clinched the season series against the Suns.
“The really important part of this is the season series,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. “We now have an advantage if this is going to be a tight race as it’s been. That’s all you get out of a game like that: momentum, obviously, and some confidence for our team.”
“It’s one more game, a game that really felt good and was great to win. It was a nice statement,” Gasol said. “But now we’ve got to keep playing and keep winning, keep doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you go to Phoenix and you win and then tomorrow you lose to the Clippers.”
The Lakers have won four of six against the Clippers (19-33), who also play their home games at Staples Center. The Clippers are mired in last place in the Pacific, but have won back-to-back games for the first time since starting the season 4-0.
“The records are thrown out when we play the Clippers. It’s an obvious fact, and the reality is that they’re a talented team,” Jackson said. “On their home court, it’s going to be very difficult to win the game, we know that.”
Bryant has averaged 25.7 points in 43 career games against the Clippers, but 38.3 in the last 11 meetings.
The Clippers upset Utah 114-104 on Friday, finally succeeding in their 14th attempt at consecutive wins since their 4-0 start. Rookie Al Thornton scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, and Corey Maggette also had 27.
“I’m glad it happened,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Now we have to go for three in a row. Utah has been playing great basketball, but our guys played for the whole 48 minutes.”