Clippers 109, Lakers, 95 Final

Clippers 109, Lakers 95 Final

A changing of a guard has taken place for reasons beyond the Clippers sweeping the regular season series for the first time since the 1974-75 season when they were the Buffalo Braves.

The Clippers’ 109-95 win Sunday over the Lakers at Staples Center could seriously dampen the Lakers’ playoff fortunes. The Utah Jazz (40-37) have the edge over the Lakers (40-37) for the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference because of the regular season tie breaker. The Jazz could extend that cushion to one game if it wins tonight against the Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile, the Clippers (51-26) locked the Pacific Division for the first time in franchise history and are only two games behind the Denver Nuggets (53-24) for the third playoff spot.

The Lakers simply looked gassed playing a seven-man rotation, while nursing injuries to Steve Nash (soreness in hip/hamstring) and Metta World Peace (knee surgery). Kobe Bryant (25 points, 10 assists) and Dwight Howard (25 points) generated plenty of offense. But the Lakers lacked much in other areas.

The Clippers severely outrebounded the Lakers, 50-36. Even though Howard finished with four blocks, he didn’t receive enough support to limit the Clippers’ 42 points in the paint, including Blake Griffin’s 24 points. The Lakers also failed to extend out on the perimeter, resulting in Chris Paul (24 points), Jamal Crawford (20 points) and Caron Butler (14) hitting open shots.

Clippers 82, Lakers 70 after third quarter

The Lakers defense looks absolutely awful. Other than Dwight Howard shutting off driving lanes en route to four blocks, the Lakers are offering him no help when it comes to stopping the Clippers.

They’re taking full advantage of that reality by featuring four players in double figures, including Chris Paul (17 points), Jamal Crawford (14 points), Blake Griffin (15 points) and Caron Butler (14 points). Meanwhile, the Lakers’ Howard (20 points), Kobe Bryant (13 points) and Pau Gasol (12 points) are leading the purple and gold.

Clippers 56, Lakers 49 at halftime.

The Lakers’ initially strong defense suddenly evaporated.

Now they’re left scrambling with no answer for Jamal Crawford (14 points), Chris Paul (nine points), Caron Butler (nine points), Blake Griffin (nine points) and Matt Barnes (nine points). Thankfully for the Lakers, they’ve thrived well with team balance.

With Steve Nash out for the third consecutive game because of soreness in his hip and hamstring, Kobe Bryant’s taken the facilitating mantle, finishing with nine assists. Dwight Howard’s playing aggressive enough to finish with 16 points, while Earl Clark and Pau Gasol each have eight points. Even with how well the Lakers have played offensively, they’ve still committed seven turnovers. That includes three both from Bryant and Gasol.

Clippers 30, Lakers 25 after first quarter

Both teams here came to play.

The Lakers’ balance remains incredibly balanced thanks to Kobe Bryant’s facilitating (six assists), and timely contributions from Earl Clark (eight points), Steve Blake (five points) and Dwight Howard (five points). Yet, the Clippers still lead after the first quarter after former Lakers forward Matt Barnes scored seven points in only three minutes. After missing their first three shots, The Clippers ended the quarter on a 57.9 percent clip, led by Chris Paul (seven points) and Blake Griffin (seven points). It also doesn’t help the Lakers committed six turnovers, including three from Bryant.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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