Commentary

Lakers' little brother grows up

The Clippers hit back on Sunday with a big win for the maturing franchise

Updated: January 16, 2011, 10:31 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Lamar Odom is right. There was no real need for Blake Griffin to be battling for a post position like the Western Conference finals were on the line once the Clippers were up by nine points with 5.7 seconds left in the game.

"Maybe I overreacted, but I just felt like when if you're up nine with the free throw going through? To ram in the back at that point?" Odom said of the scuffle under the basket that nearly led to a fight at the end of the Clippers' 99-92 win over the Lakers on Sunday.

"Any other time I'd [say] you play hard, strong. Whatever, but to ram in the back up nine? I just don't get it."

[+] EnlargeBlake Griffin
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Clippers stood up to the Lakers on Sunday, and if they stick to the script, there will be more to celebrate in their future.

Lamar Odom is also completely wrong.

And, having been on the other side of this lopsided rivalry at the beginning of his career [1999-2003], he of all people should understand why.

The Lakers haven't just owned this town, they've blocked out the sun.

This isn't an older brother-younger brother rivalry, it's Vito Corleone ruling over Sicilian peasants.

So to change anything, even just a little bit, the Clippers can't just beat the Lakers occasionally, they have to beat them and get their attention with the type of inspired, gutsy play they showed in Sunday's win.

"The Lakers do win games," Griffin said with an icy stare. "But things can change."

To be fair to Griffin, I led him toward that quote. Then again, he didn't seem to mind answering my question: "The perception here in Los Angeles has always been that the Lakers find a way to win games and the Clippers find a way to lose …"

He stopped me before I could finish.

"I recognize it, but I'm not going to accept it," Griffin said. "I'm not going to say, 'Oh, that's fine.'

"I think it's up to us to change that, or to try to change that. To work towards it. It might never happen, but certainly we owe that to ourselves."

The Lakers should've won this game. For three quarters, they dictated the pace, did just about everything they wanted to do, disrupted the Clippers' fast-break offense and thoroughly frustrated Griffin into one of his worst games of the year.

But the Lakers didn't just give this game away in the fourth quarter. The Clippers took it.

"There's [been] a lot of tacos," Kobe Bryant joked, when asked about his team's ability to close out games against lesser teams this year.

"We've really put the hammer down on teams. Tonight they capitalized on mistakes, and Blake just ran through us. We didn't have anybody that was going to put up a stand."

I've always been the older sibling. So I'm sure I'll never quite understand what it's like to always look up to someone and try to prove you can hang.

But I remember the first time my younger brother got tall enough and strong enough to start blocking my shots when we'd play one-on-one in the front yard.

He was about 11 or 12, and up until that day our games usually resulted in me winning, but letting him score enough that it wasn't a blowout.

Then one day he started blocking my shots and I had no idea what to do or how to feel. The dynamic had irrevocably shifted.

Has that happened in the Lakers-Clippers rivalry?

Probably not yet. The Lakers still have 16 more NBA championships, and 16 more wins this season.

But after Sunday, the Clippers have the Lakers' attention.

"We just didn't put up much of a fight," Bryant said after the game. "I'm sure the next time we play them, we'll be a little bit more ready. Physically we match up with them, but they took it from us [today]."

And then, in an Amare Stoudemire-eque nod to Griffin, Bryant seemed to take the rookie's side in the debate over whether he should be battling for post position at the end of the game.

"You play till the final buzzer sounds," Bryant said. "That's the way I grew up playing."

This is just a start for the Clippers, of course.

It's one thing to get up for the Lakers or the Miami Heat or the San Antonio Spurs, it's another thing to keep that focus, let's say tomorrow afternoon against the 16-21 Indiana Pacers.

"It seems like they focus on big games," Bryant said, echoing LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's comments Wednesday night after the Clippers defeated the Heat.

"They pay attention to big games. Clipper fans can really get excited if they pay attention to detail to some of the teams that aren't as marquee. Then they'd have something special."

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.