After last night’s loss to their co-tenant Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers are 2-5 since LeBron James activated his “playoff intensity level,” a spell that means they’re probably super dead. As losses go, this one was perfectly emblematic of how the entire season has gone for both L.A. clubs; the Lakers didn’t give a shit and got owned, while the Clippers played relentless basketball and overcame a theoretical talent disadvantage to win. The man who most thoroughly displayed what “playoff intensity” really meant was not James, but rather Doc Rivers’s irascible defensive bloodhound, Patrick Beverley.
Beverley’s stats—13 points and five steals—were not necessarily tremendous, but, as usual, his most important contributions were unyielding defensive pressure and a fiery attitude. He began the game by stealing the Lakers’ opening tip and ended it by flexing on them. The Lakers have a ton of top picks and also LeBron James, but they don’t have anyone who plays like Beverley, who said he asked for the assignment of guarding James.
Afterwards, he was super fired up. Beverley has plenty of reason to go hard against the Lakers, even aside from the fact that they’re both jockeying for playoff slots and they share the same building. Beverley was traded to Miami by the Lakers in 2009, and the Heat cut him a few days before the start of James’s first regular season with the team. He never forgot what that felt like, and he spoke about it last night. Beverley could have maybe even gone harder, but he joked that he didn’t want to get fined.
Once again, Beverley declared his team the best in L.A., and at this point, that claim is inarguably true.
The Clips are six full games ahead of the Lakers, 3.5 games clear of the ninth-placed Kings (who they just beat in Sacramento), and half a game ahead of the Spurs in the race not to play the Warriors. All of this after they traded Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic in what seemed at the time like an attempt to quickly tank and keep their draft pick rather than squeak into the playoffs. Maybe if management really wanted to do that, they should have found a team for Beverley, because the man doesn’t know how to lose.