The Los Angeles Clippers have long been the red-headed stepchild in their city. Forced to share an arena with the 17-time champion Lakers and mired in a seemingly endless stretch of futility, them and their fans have suffered enough.
And to pull a line from Network star Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the Clippers are ‘mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.’
Clippers point guard Chris Paul — who was a vetoed trade away from ending up in purple and gold — took exception to Pau Gasol patting his head in the final seconds of the game. Paul reached up to return the favor, sparking a flurry of words between the two players and an eventual bump by Gasol as the two teams left the floor. And Paul didn’t hesitate to shove him back.
“He tried to touch the top of my head. I don’t like that,” Paul said. “I got a son of my own. I don’t know if Pau’s got kids, whatever, but don’t touch the top of my head like I’m one of your kids.
“I don’t know what his intentions were and it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if he’s got kids but I’m not one of them. I went back and I tried to treat him like little Chris.”
In a game that saw the two teams combine for six technical fouls, it was the Lakers (11-8) who executed down the stretch — something they have struggled to do at times this season. Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Gasol finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds to help their team snap a three-game losing streak.
“There’s a point where I step in and Metta steps in when things get a little too chippy,” Bryant said. “It’s like, enough of the bullcrap.”
For the time being, perhaps. And the Lakers hope an emotional win will spark them to get back on track after a disappointing start to the season.
But both teams will be circling April 4 on their calendars, when they meet for the third and final time during the regular season.
“They got us tonight,” Paul said after the game. “But we’ll get them again later.”