While some notable figures in the rivalry downplayed the matchup between the Western Conference’s two top teams, McGee wasn’t shy about saying what it meant.
“It was very important,” McGee told The Athletic after the Lakers’ 112-103 victory. “Just to quiet the doubters. The Lake Show the best team in the world right now.”
The victory came on the same weekend that the Lakers knocked off the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks, so there was reason for McGee and the rest of the Lakers to feel good about their current state of affairs.
But the ultimate goal is an NBA title, and there’s a solid chance that the Lakers road could go through their Staples Center rival in the Clippers. If that ends up being the case and they face off in the playoffs, Lakers star Anthony Davis expects it to be similar to Sunday’s tense tilt.
“Just like that,” Davis told reporters from his locker. “Chippy. Defensive-minded. Scrappy. The best type of games is when you come out of there with bloody lips and scratches, and you know guys taking charges and guys chirping. Those the type of games that you live for, the fun games in basketball that every player in this locker room wants.”
LeBron James Impressing Teammates, Garnering MVP Support
Davis led the Lakers in scoring with 30 points against the Clippers, but it was LeBron James who came away with his second night of rave reviews against some of the NBA’s best.
Against the Clippers, James netted 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Versus the Bucks, the 35-year-old had 37 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, besting MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“What he’s been able to do, taking on matchups defensively, leading the pack offensively, making the right plays, you don’t see that from a guy who is 17 years in the league and his team is No. 1 in the West,” Davis said. “He’s continuing to show the world why he’s the best and if people don’t understand that, then (after) the last two games, I think they understand now.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel echoed that sentiment on James.
“He was unbelievable,” Vogel said. “His best weekend in a Lakers uniform, I’m assuming. I wasn’t here last year. But in my mind, this season, this was his best two-game stretch. Really just dominated — dominated — both games and helped close them out.”
As recent as March 5, Antetokounmpo was the heavy betting favorite at -1200. But James seems to have massively narrowed the gap thanks to his big performances, with the odds moving to +120 for the four-time MVP.
LeBron James Not Driven by MVP Award
Prior to the Lakers matchup with the Bucks, James admitted that the MVP award has never been his motivation. He simply focuses on being the best.
“It’s never motivated me,” James told reporters. “Regular-season MVP has never motivated me. To be the best — to be the best to ever play the game has motivated me and has resulted in me being able to be league MVP a couple times.
“But I’ve never gone into the season saying, ‘OK, league MVP is what I want to be.’ I’ve gone into the season saying, ‘OK, I want to be the MVP of this team; I want to be the best player in the world,’ and how I approach my game every day, how I take care of my body every day has resulted in that [award].”
Whether or not James reels in the MVP, he’s put the Lakers into the power position when it comes to an NBA title, which is exactly what fans of the purple and gold want.