The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers face off on Christmas Day and on Opening Night, but Wednesday's clash between the two corridor rivals will actually have playoff implications.
In the most important game of the season, and quite possibly the "meaningful" one for them, the Clippers and Lakers clashed as they both desperately tried to avoid playing in next week's play-offs.
After much hype over the past few seasons that the two teams will compete for the championship and possibly go head-to-head in a playoff series, this will actually be what feels like a playoff battle between the two teams. Matches in Crypto.com Arena feel the same hallway shared locker room.
"We never played them in the [playoff] series that the fans and all of us were looking forward to," Clippers center and former Laker Ivica Zubac said before practice. "But it's pretty close.
"I think this is the biggest game I've ever played with the Lakers [and] the Clippers. You can feel it now. It's going to be the biggest game of the season for both teams. I can hardly wait."
To add to the fun and drama, this was Russell Westbrook's first game with his ex-Laker since he was traded to the Utah Jazz and then bought out his contract, allowing him to sign with the Clippers.
Westbrook's season-and-a-half with the Lakers fell far short of expectations, and the always-energetic Westbrook will take on LeBron James and the Lakers very aggressively.
Westbrook's new Clippers teammates know this game means a lot to the former MVP point guard, who has adjusted well to his new team.
"We know what the media is saying, what it's saying about him and his time there," security guard Norman Powell said. "We've been there for support from day one, since he came here and brought him into the herd, into this family.
"For any player, going up against a former organization that you were just with, you want to kind of stick it to them. So I think it's an important game for him and us as well."
The Clippers (41-38) entered Tuesday night's games clinging to fifth place in the Western Conference, even with the Golden State Warriors, Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans in the loss column.
They will be short-handed against the Lakers without All-Star Paul George (sprained knee). Clippers coach Tyronn Lue did say that guard Eric Gordon would see how his injured hip feels in practice on Tuesday and that Marcus Morris Sr. is out of health and safety protocols.
While they have won 10 straight against the Lakers, the Clippers say they feel this meeting, which will be a Clippers home game, won't be like any other.
"It's different now," Lue said when asked why the Clippers have had so much recent head-to-head success against the Lakers. "A lot's at stake right now. They're playing at a high level and this is the first meaningful game that we've actually played.
"I'm excited for it. We'll see what happens. I don't know why we've been so good [against the Lakers], but tomorrow will be different."
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