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Clippers claim first Pacific Division title in franchise history

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Finally, the Los Angeles Clippers have a championship banner to hang.

Finally, a franchise born 43 seasons ago and moved around the country from Buffalo to San Diego to Los Angeles can claim something significant.

And to think, they beat their cross-town rival Lakers to complete the task.

At long last the Clippers are a division champion, their 109-95 win over the Lakers Sunday at Staples Center clinching their first Pacific Division crown in franchise history.

From Bob McAdoo and the Buffalo Braves to Bill Walton and the San Diego Clippers and Elton Brand and the Los Angeles Clippers, this often miserable franchise has always been an NBA step-child.

Around for nearly half-a-century but never relevant, never elite and certainly never a champion, it took the brilliance of Chris Paul, the explosion of Blake Griffin and a financial commitment from notoriously frugal owner Donald Sterling, but today the Clippers finally have their title.

Paul toyed with the Lakers, scoring 24 points and dishing out 12 assists on Sunday.

Blake Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds and punished the Lakers with a pair of highlight dunks, the second of which preceded a three-pointer in the closing two minutes that all but put the game away.

"It's big for us and it's big for this organization," said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, the longest-tenured Clipper. "It's big for our fans and it's big for the Clipper community."

Griffin agreed.

"It means something to me; it's my first one," Griffin said. "Not having been in that situation or even in my first year, not even close, it means something to me."

But it's also not the end all be all.

"It's not the only thing we want to do," Jordan said. "We want to take this momentum into the playoffs. It's the first time that this has ever happened in franchise history so we want to enjoy it but we know it's not the only thing we want to do."

"There was no cake, no champagne popping or anything like that in our locker room," Paul said. "I think that says even more about our team and that we're not satisfied."

As big a win as it was the for the Clippers, it was equally devastating for the Lakers, who began the day just a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"You've got to give them credit," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of the Clippers. "They hit big shots. They played well. I thought there were times, especially in the first half, we didn't get back and turned it over and we kind of got them starter."

Kobe Bryant had 25 points and 10 assists for the Lakers while Dwight Howard added 25 points but only four rebounds.

"The Clippers played well," Bryant said. "They made some tough shots and had players coming in and out making baskets under duress. They kind of kept us at bay."

Granted, Paul and the Clippers have bigger goal ahead -- namely a prolonged playoff run and maybe a Western Conference championship, but for one day they could bask in the achievement of accomplishing something never done before.

And in the process give their long-suffering fans something to celebrate.

NOTES: As expected, Steve Nash missed his third straight game for the Lakers with hip and calf issues. Steve Blake got the start in his place. ... Blake is averaging 10.6 points in his three games filling in for Nash and is shooting 50 percent on three-pointers. ... Metta World Peace made an appearance at Lakers practice Saturday and took some shots with his teammates. World Peace underwent left knee surgery last week for torn meniscus and the new time table has him back within four to six weeks. ... There has been talk recently the Clippers are suffering a chemistry issue and that Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan aren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye. Jordan, in a tweet this week, disputed the claim and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro shot down reports of any issues. ... Chauncey Billups is still dealing with a groin issue, and though he did some shooting drills at practice Saturday, he did not suit up.
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