ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
On Monday, March 5, Whittier College took 50 students to the Staples Center on an excursion trip to see the L.A. Lakers face off against the L.A. Clippers in a cross-locker room showdown. Since it was sponsored by Program Board, students were able to purchase tickets valued at $85 for $40.
At the beginning of the season, with the signing of three-time champion and 19-time All-Star LeBron James, many sports analysts had predicted the Lakers to be at the top of the Western Conference standings. L.A. Clippers, who are considered “the other” team in L.A. playing in the Staples Center, would have a difficult season. With the departure of “Lob City” Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, all signing or being traded to other teams, in the last couple years, not many analysts had the Clippers in playoff contention.
Roll the ball on the court and let the teams play it out, because nothing is certain in any sport, especially in the Western Conference of the NBA. Lakers find themselves at the bottom of the pack, currently holding the tenth-seed, after falling from the top five spot, before James went down with an injury on Christmas Day against the defending champions Golden State Warriors. Clippers traded their best player, Tobias Harris, to the Philadelphia 76ers a day before the NBA trade deadline for three players, three future first-round picks, and two future second-round picks. What looked like a team that would “tank” for the remainder of the season still find themselves in playoff contention, with the seventh seed.
Entering Monday night, Lakers needed to win and regain as much traction as possible to climb up the standings, since playoffs get closer every passing day. It’s not the Lakers or LeBron without drama within the organization. Former owner for the L.A Lakers, Jerry Buss, made an effort to entertain the fans in attendance throughout their stay at the Forum. With the amount of pressure the Lakers are under with the appearance of James and the struggles the team’s been having lately, the Lakers are under a microscope. There is no room for error for the Lakers.
This game was one to be excited about, for many fans. Throw in two teams looking to make their push towards the playoffs, along with arguably one of the greatest players in the sport, and you have yourself a great game environment. Second-year Manuel Alvarez talked about the games whole environment “The environment was exciting and thrilling. As each passing moment went on –— and as the game became more competitive — I was brought into the excitement.”
As the game proceeded, bad possessions for each team seemed to elicit groans and cheers. Both teams shared the same arena, but Lakers fans seemed to have the louder voice. This game also had the same old hecklers who seemed to think the referees and players can hear them, as one particular fan behind some of us students made the game more enjoyable, putting a comedic spin to the atmosphere.
The game started off badly for the Lakers defensively, as the Clippers scored right off the bat on tip-off as they had a simple layup to start. The Lakers, on the offensive end, had a good start as Rajon Rondo seemed to have the hot hand of the night. He hit four three–pointers leading the team for that night and ended the night with a triple-double. It was also a game where the fans were closely watching LeBron, who only needed 40 points to pass Michael Jordan in all-time points. “This was my first ever Laker game that I attended,” said Alvarez. “Even though it was a tough game to watch, it was still worth going.”
During the game’s halftime show, two lucky Whittier College students were able to compete for a chance to go back for a later Lakers home game, in hopes of winning a new car. One of these students, first-year Ricardo Reyes, said, “It was a nerve-racking experience of a lifetime, just to be on the court and to be able to compete in the halftime skills challenge.” This is an experience not many people get to talk about after attending any sports game.
After all four quarters finished the L.A. Lakers lost to the L.A. Clippers 113 – 105 after having a very disappointing fourth quarter, the main story for most of the Lakers’ games. “It is not the season that I wish they would be having this year, but at least we (Lakers) are relevant this year,” said Alvarez. “Win or lose I still ride with my team.”
This moved the Clippers to the seventh spot in the West and left the Lakers in the tenth spot, with five and a half games out of the playoffs. Many felt like Whittier College should do more events like this. Second-year Meda Mazon-Robinson said, “It is a good mental break from school and work.” Though the game was a sad one for many Lakers fans – including myself – the overall experience of the game was memorable. A city rivalry always has half of a city happy at the end of the day and the other feeling the pain of defeat.