The Los Angeles Lakers have won the Pacific Division the last five years. That impressive run will come to an end this season.
And guess who's next in line to capture the division title? That's right, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers need a win this afternoon against the rival Lakers to lock up their first division crown in team history. The Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats are the only teams in NBA lore not to win a division championship.
A three-game losing streak for the Clippers was put to rest with Wednesday's 126-101 beatdown of the Phoenix Suns as DeAndre Jordan led the charge with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
"My teammates put me in position for easy baskets," Jordan said.
Chris Paul delivered 15 points, 12 assists and four steals, while Eric Bledsoe and Willie Green finished with 17 and 15 points, respectively, for Los Angeles, which posted 50 wins in a season for the first time. The 1974-75 Buffalo Braves went 49-33.
The Clippers outscored the Suns 72-32 in the paint and registered 34 points off of 21 Phoenix turnovers. The Clips, who have 35 wins this season by 10 or more points, are 1-1 on a four-game homestand and 29-9 as the host. They will wrap up the residency Wednesday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. A loss by Golden State to Utah Sunday would also clinch the Pacific for the Clippers.
In injury news for the Clippers, Jordan is questionable Sunday with a sore hip and Blake Griffin, who had just nine points versus the Suns, is questionable as well due to a sore left calf.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are fighting for a playoff spot that superstar Kobe Bryant said will come to fruition. The Lakers are just one-half game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth spot in the West and sit 2 1/2 games in back of the Houston Rockets with six to play.
In an 86-84 triumph versus the Grizzlies on Friday, Bryant scored 24 points and dished out nine assists. Dwight Howard had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who made it interesting at the end before holding on. Grizzlies guard Mike Conley drove the lane in the waning seconds and was defended by Howard. No foul was called and Conley's shot was off the mark at the horn.
"I thought he did a great job. He tried to avoid contact and stayed big enough to bother the shot," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Howard's defense. "I thought he defended it perfectly."
Bryant talked about the remainder of the games afterward.
"We have big games coming up against tough opponents. I think at this point in the season it should be very easy for us to maintain our focus," Bryant said.
The Lakers have won three in a row and four of five games, and still have important games against the Clippers, Warriors, Spurs and Rockets on the slate. The Lakers are 15-24 away from home and may not have guard Steve Nash on Sunday because of a series on injuries to his hip, ankle and back.
The Clippers have won the first three matchups with the Lakers this season and haven't swept a season series against their city rivals since 1974-75 (4-0), when the team resided in Buffalo. The Lakers have lost five of their last seven at the Clippers.