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T.J. SIMERS

It would be a date with destiny for L.A. Lakers and Clippers

A city as great as Los Angeles needs to see its two basketball teams meeting up in a first-round playoff series. Guys, you can do this.

T.J. Simers

2:16 AM EDT, March 14, 2013

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Sure, the criticism hurts.

But I do it for the good people of Los Angeles and make no apologies to those living in the hinterlands who don't understand.

As you know so well from experience, I'm only here to praise our local teams and support them the best way I can.

I think you would agree no one has spent more time pumping up the Choking Dogs over the years than I have.

I have found nice things to write about Jim Buss, which is darn near impossible. I don't see anyone else trying it.

I've got Dwight Howard hugging me, Chris Paul inviting me to his home and Jim Mora making eyes at me, or at the very least rolling them.

Now I know that makes me a homer in the eyes of folks sentenced to live elsewhere. But I'm just going to come out and write it: I'm openly rooting for a first-round playoff series between the Lakers and Clippers.

As I write this, Memphis is playing the Clippers.

And I'm reminded how much Memphis smells, and how pathetic their fans come across.

Oakland and Houston, meanwhile, are dumps.

And have you ever contemplated wasting what time you might have left in life in Oklahoma City? Or wanted to watch the garbage float by while eating beside the River Walk in San Antonio?

Now you know why I was pulling so hard for the Lakers not to gag in Atlanta, and I say that while rooting for them.

Who wants our guys going to some outpost for the playoffs where everyone wears the same T-shirt like they are still attending a high school pep rally?

I believe the Lakers can go 14-3 down the stretch, or even better, and become the sixth-seeded team.

Make that 12-4 now after they blew it against Atlanta, and I only say that in a loving way.

I haven't been able to verify it yet, but I'm told Pope Francis' first tweet was to ask how Kobe was doing.

Amen. I'm thinking the same thing, already figuring he won't play against Indiana, but that would be a loss anyway.

The next few games after Indiana are gimmies for the Lakers with or without Kobe, and I have the Lakers going on an eight-game winning streak.

I worry more about the Clippers.

And who would have thought the Clippers would be more of a concern than a Lakers team playing without Kobe and Pau Gasol?

The Clippers have been unable recently to defeat quality teams, and that's probably not a good thing when looking ahead to the playoffs.

As crummy as they have been, who has spent more time with the Clippers? I'm with them.

But now I need them to finish third if there is any chance of the Clippers and Lakers meeting.

You take the top five candidates for MVP honors, and after probably giving it to LeBron James — Kevin Durant, Tony Parker, Paul and Bryant are right there.

Paul already has made the Clippers relevant, which should qualify him for something on the same level as sainthood. It's already been certified a miracle.

But now I need more out of him. He can't let Lob City become a sob story.

Paul had 18 points in the first half against Memphis, and thank you, but when a team is forced to start Matt Barnes, how can it be taken seriously as a NBA championship contender?

The Clippers have lost their edge. Their second unit is no longer special.

If they finish lower than third, they will be a huge disappointment even though they will become the first L.A. Clippers team to win a division title.

If the Clippers fall permanently to fourth, and they began in fourth Wednesday night, they will play either Memphis or Denver in the first round.

Denver has won 10 in a row, is unbeatable at home and still has nine home games remaining. They are right behind the Clippers.

If the Clippers finish fifth, they had best hope they don't begin the playoffs on the road in Denver.

If they fall out of third and find themselves playing in Memphis at some point, I worry I might have to hold my nose and even criticize them.

I TWEETED everyone earlier in the day while stating the obvious: "This is such a big nite for NBA memphians — they get to stay up, see pics of LA and dream of what it would be like to live there."

What a surprise to learn a third-world city has so many tweeting machines. It gave the poor souls living there a chance to say thank you for thinking of them.

My pleasure.

t.j.simers@latimes.com