Playoff preview: Clippers-Lakers?

It's awfully early to think about January NBA matchups as playoff previews, but the league office surely has its fingers crossed that the battle for L.A. between the Clippers and Lakers, which resumes tonight on ESPN, might play out over seven games this spring. The two rivals have not met in the postseason since they began sharing Staples Center in 1999; for that matter, they've never met in the playoffs. (The closest they came was 2006, when the Lakers and Clippers would have played in the conference semifinals had the Lakers been able to close out a series they led 3-1 over Phoenix.) First off, both have to make the playoffs, and while the Clippers are usually the problem there, this season it's the Lakers who are struggling to hold up their end of the bargain.