While some of the NBA’s Christmas Day games turned out to be a bit disappointing, the battle for Los Angeles delivered. The Lakers and Clippers battled it out at the Staples Center, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George claiming local bragging rights. Lakers center Dwight Howard, however, didn’t think one loss changed anything.
After the game, Howard made a bold statement: he told reporters that, despite the loss, the Lakers are “still the best team.”
The Los Angeles Clippers claim supremacy Christmas Day
On paper, the Lakers-Clippers game looked like the best matchup on the Christmas Day schedule. While neutral fans might agree with that statement, things didn’t work out for the team in purple and gold.
From the opening tip-off, the Lakers controlled the game. They only led by two points after the first quarter, but that advantage started to swell. They were ahead by 12 at halftime and 15 during the third frame, but couldn’t hold onto the lead.
“They wanted it more,” Anthony Davis explained. “We had a lot of mistakes down at the end of the game, mental mistakes at both ends of the floor. We fouled a lot in the fourth quarter, put them to the line. … We gave that one away.”
Dwight Howard still likes the Lakers’ chances
The Los Angeles Lakers entered Christmas Day as the second-best team in the NBA. While they dropped another result, center Dwight Howard still thinks that his team can outdo anyone when it really matters.
“We’re still the best team,” the big man told reporters. “After tonight, let it go. It’s just another game. Of course, we all wanted it. I think everybody in L.A. that’s a Lakers fan wanted to see us win tonight. But like I told you guys a couple days ago, we want to be the best team in June. We want to be the team that’s holding up the trophy, and I think when we do that, nobody will remember the game that we lost on Christmas.”
Are the Lakers or the Clippers the better team?
If you look purely at records, Dwight Howard is partially right. While the Lakers might not be the best team in the entire NBA—the Bucks hold a 2.5 game lead—they, in turn, have a two-game lead over the Clippers. On the court, however, things are a bit different.
The Clippers have won both of their head-to-head meetings with the Lakers and only seem to be improving. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are still learning to work together; the team didn’t have a practice with 15 healthy players until Christmas Eve, which speaks volumes about their collective health. When everyone is fit, the Clippers have four or five players capable of stepping up on a given night. Even if Leonard or George are struggling, someone else can pick up the slack.
While the Lakers might be the better team in the standings, the Clippers have climbed over their crosstown rival in head-to-head results and championship odds. The race is far from over, though; as Dwight Howard said, both teams want to be the best in June, not December.