- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It's simmering, not bubbling just yet. And not even close to the almost-"Hallway Series" of 2006.
But simmering is still something whenever it's used to describe a Lakers-Clippers rivalry.
The Clippers (13-25) are the host team for Sunday's rare 12:30 p.m. start. For the first time in a few years, they aren't huge underdogs, having won eight of their last 12 games behind the quantum leap in the level of rookie forward Blake Griffin's play.
"They are playing with a lot of energy and have a lot of offensive firepower right now," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of the Clippers.
"I think they have all the talent that's necessary to win. It's just the cohesion of playing together."
Forward Lamar Odom seemed to share Jackson's assessment.
"It's just time together," said Odom, who began his career with the Clippers in 1999. "That's the most important thing. Teams with new players and new coaches every other day, it's tough. Time together is the most important thing for any team, NBA, major league baseball, MLS ...
"If you think about the teams that have won, they've always had time together. If you want to win consistently, you need that."
The Clippers have had three coaches in the past year: Mike Dunleavy, who was fired in the middle of last season, interim coach Kim Hughes, who wasn't retained after the season, and Vinny Del Negro, who was hired in August.
They have rebounded in the last month behind the play of Griffin and third-year shooting guard Eric Gordon.
"It's going to be a good game though. They're playing well," Lakers forward Ron Artest said. "As the years go on, it's going to show [more]. Hopefully we'll see them in the playoffs sometime.
"I'd love to see an L.A.-L.A. Western Conference semifinal, Game 7. It'd be great for the city. I'm hoping that happens. Then we can get an LA-New York Finals. That'd be a perfect world."
The Lakers (30-11) had a long practice Saturday and watched extra film of the Clippers.
The Lakers have won seven games in a row, but Jackson said he was concerned about the team's upcoming slate of games.
"I'm not comfortable with either of the two games; [Sunday against the Clippers] or Monday [Oklahoma City]," Jackson said. "That's why we had a practice, a real practice today. We're concerned.
"We didn't think we played well last night and we got away with a win anyway. There's a natural tendency to relax a little bit after you've won a couple of games. There's not the same intensity. You have to be very careful of that as a player and a coach."
The Lakers defeated the Clippers 87-86 in their first meeting of the season Dec. 8. The teams split four games last season.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles. Follow her on Twitter.
The Lakers face the Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson knows his team better be ready to play.