The Lakers and the Clippers tip off tonight. The Lakers and the Clippers are coming off wins in their last game. Both teams would like to go into All-Star Game with round three of this epic hometown saga. Everyone knows the Lakers possess championships while the Clippers are seeking their first, but this season, the story has taken wings of change in Clipper land.

Will we see the new Lakers’ team that was built for another championship, or at least the one who has shown glimpses of their potential on occasion? The Lakers appear to be accepting the fact that they are still working on chemistry. They are making a few runs in games, showing some brilliance, yet losing tonight to the Clippers would be . . . or will they flip the switch and play for the win?

If the Lakers lose this game tonight against the Clippers it will not be the end of the Lakers’ former dream of winning an NBA championship, but for now just making the playoffs.  What a loss to the Clippers will do is set a trend the Lakers do not want to set with the Chris Paul, Blake Griffin led Los Angeles Clippers. Dreams of splendor in June are also being dreamed in the Clippers’ house. Maybe important, maybe not, but the Los Angeles Lakers are tied with the Portland Trail Blazers and fighting for a playoff berth at the All-Star break.

Will the Lakers put up a 48 minute fight for a round three victory against a game and very capable Clippers team? The Clippers are a team aggressively looking to secure territory once owned by the Lakers. Will the Lakers flip the switch tonight?  

In last night’s game against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers showed consistent glimpses of what could be happening for the remainder of the regular season and into the post season.

The foundational talent of this Clipper team is well represented. During the first round of this epic, ‘Thriller In Manila’ bout the Clippers needed to exercise a mental reality that they can not only compete with the Lakers but can beat them or anyone else out in the race for the Western Conference championship. Winning the conference championship would set a precedent as the team to beat on the way to a NBA championship title.

The Clippers need to throw the first punch in round three of the five round bout with the Los Angeles Lakers during the regular season with the potential for extended rounds in the playoffs. Now that Dwight Howard is back and in the Lakers starting lineup; a win now would be a viable win for the Clippers.

The Lakers still have major identity, production and rotation issues with their bench. Earl Clark has been a major surprise contributor but more is need from the Lakers’ bench while the Clippers are thriving off the production of their bench.  There has been some improvement from the Lakers’ bench but it is not clear which players are going to consistently be effective in taking up the gap when the starting team is out.

When given the opportunity, Steve Blake seems to be the leading candidate who could solidify the position with consistent performances that would lead to successful team outcomes. The Clippers can be impacted by a variety of questions that need to go their way to be realistic contenders for the crown. Obviously, player health is the foremost issue in determining the success of the Clippers’ season.

The Clippers are more formidable if they can get Lamar Odom’s production up. He brings the championship spirit, locker room presence and the skill and talent needed to go all the way. A key to the Clippers’ success is the maturity emergence of center Deandre Jordan as a player. It is essential that Jordan continues to stay out of foul trouble early or during crucial times in the game. Jordan’s improvement defensively by consistently executing the team’s defensive rotations and contributing down low on the offensive end makes this Clipper team hard to beat.

If Chancey Billups can regain the conditioning and timing he held before his injury last season, the Clippers will have another closer with the basketball when it is not Chris Paul. Billups is a major leader for the Clippers especially when he is on the floor.

Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford have been consistent with their backcourt contributions as they both have displayed all season. A healthy Grant Hill with Caron Butler at small forward, a game scorer in guard Willie Green and the deep bench backup and team play of small forward, Matt Barnes, center Ryan Hollis and power forward Ronny Turiaf, makes the Clippers a fighting machine with punchers at every position.

Lakers verses Clippers, will both teams throw out their respective records for now and battle to win this ‘Thriller In Manila’ ‘round three? . . . Who will flip the switch?