Kobe Bean Bryant
No, this isn't a typo.
"The Blake Show" is besting "The Lake Show" at this point with their youth and exuberance. The acquisition of Chris Paul has strengthened the squad immensely, and the team looks certain to garner a playoff berth for the first time in years.
Despite the Clippers' newfound success, the reigning Pacific Division champions are the Lakers.
The men in purple and gold will not lie down for anyone, especially for the team they share a building with.
Let's take a look at five reasons why the Lakers will finish ahead of the Clippers in the Pacific Division.
Former UCLA Bruin Matt Barnes
Offensively, this current Lakers roster is only averaging 93 points a game. That's the lowest a Los Angeles team has averaged since the beginning of the shot clock era. In addition, the Lakers have only hit the century mark in a game this season four times in 31 attempts.
What are the causes of the offensive woes?
Well, the shortened season doesn't help any. With a new coach in Mike Brown, his dribble-drive motion-based offensive system hasn't had ample time to fully be incorporated.
The average fan also might not be cognizant of the fact the Lakers ran the vaunted triangle offense under Phil Jackson for more than a decade. Naturally with that type of continuity for such a long stretch of time, a transitional period with a new offensive system is inevitable.
With that said, the offensive output should improve as the season progresses. One would surmise that the team will become more comfortable with Brown's offense on a game-by-game basis.
The shooting percentage of the team from the field and from three-point range should be also enhanced with more familiarity out on the court, and the bench output should also grow.
In the last six games, the Lakers bench production has been much better. Rookie Andrew Goudelock has turned into a legitimate threat off the bench, and Matt Barnes has been displaying much better production.
Also, as Steve Blake rounds into shape from his injury, he will help to inject additional punch.
A prime example of the Twin Tower's prowess
A big strength that the Lakers employ on a nightly basis is the supremely talented pairing in the middle of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
There's not one team in the league that can effectively match up with both big men.
With Gasol, you have arguably the most skilled post player in the league. Not only does he utilize an array of crafty post moves with either hand, but he also has range from the perimeter extending to the three-point line. As a power forward, his ability to pass the ball might not be rivaled by any other athlete playing his position.
The 24-year-old Bynum has had a breakout season, which has resulted in a starting spot in the All-Star Game.
Like Gasol, Bynum is very skilled in the post. His massive size presents problems for any defender, and his overall offensive game is extremely effective. On the defensive end, he's turned into a premier shot blocker. His long arms aid him greatly in disrupting any shot in the paint.
Essentially, Gasol is more finesse while Bynum is strong and powerful. They complement each other well and make up the most dynamic front court pairing in the NBA.
When the Lakers need an "easy" bucket with a high percentage of conversion, they just pound it inside and feed it to the "big fellas."
Coach Mike Brown and Derek Fisher talk defensive strategy
With the addition of Brown, the overall defensive capabilities of the Lakers have grown leaps and bounds from where they were previously.
The Lakers currently rank third in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage, holding the opponent to an impressive 41.8 percent from the field. They're also allowing only 91.1 points per contest. Last season, opposing teams were shooting over 43 percent and scoring 95.4 points per game. An almost four-point difference from last season is quite impressive.
Under former coach Phil Jackson, defense wasn't always emphasized as much as it should have been. With Brown at the helm, there's been a concerted effort to improve on the defensive side of the floor.
A philosophy focusing around clogging the lane and "packing it in" has been effective. As a result, opposing teams are forced more often into settling for perimeter shots as opposed to driving the lane and getting good looks at the basket.
A big reason for their defensive success is due to both Gasol and Bynum. With the immense length and size that they bring to the table, it makes it incredibly hard for any player driving the lane against "the twin towers."
Should the current defensive display be sustained, the Lakers will continue to rise up the Western Conference ladder and win the Pacific Division title.
The two wiley veterans
One aspect separating the Lakers and Clippers is the experience, or disparity, between the two teams.
For the Clippers, they don't make the playoffs with much regularity. In fact, they've only been to the playoffs seven times in the history of their franchise.
This current Clippers team is also short on playoff experience. Combined, the team accounts for 371 playoff contests—249 of those are made up by new acquisition Kenyon Martin and the injured Chauncey Billups.
The majority of the veteran Lakers team has been through the rigors of countless playoff battles. The current roster combines for a stunning 807 playoff appearances. Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant combine for 417 appearances in the postseason alone.
Inevitably, the younger, upstart Clippers squad will be put in unfamiliar situations. Outside of Martin, the team has little experience in a situation such as facing a quality opponent in a seven game series.
In addition, regular-season games determining eventual playoff seeding will be new for the core players on the Clippers roster. These tense and often arduous games toward the end of the season are difficult.
It will be extremely interesting to see how the likes of Paul and Blake Griffin respond to such a challenge. For the Lakers, it will be second nature as they've been in similar scenarios on multiple occasions.
There's no question, however, that the Lakers hold a huge edge in this category. And experience should not be discounted at all when competing for a division crown.
The Black Mamba
Kobe Bean Bryant.
The Clippers probably have a more talented roster top to bottom, but Bryant is the neutralizer. He really is "The Black Mamba" (as his moniker indicates). Bryant is an absolutely lethal finisher and is bar none the best closer in the game, even at 33.
When the game is on the line, there isn't a player that comes close to Bryant's brilliance under pressure.
Time after time, he's displayed a ruthlessness on the court. There have even been scientific studies done to test if Bryant truly is cold-blooded.
Joking aside, the superstar can go for 50 at any given point. He's proved himself in the postseason for over a decade and that type of experience is lacking on the Clippers roster.
With his leadership and scintillating play, he'll be able to push the Lakers over the top in order to win the Pacific Division.