The players themselves might downplay the budding rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers, but apparently nobody else in Los Angeles got the memo.
Last Friday's game, a 10-point win for the red, white, and blue, delivered a 5.9 local rating, making it ESPN's highest-rated regular season game ever televised in the L.A. market. In the Lakers stronghold of Las Vegas, the opening installment of this year's Battle of L.A. drew a 4.8 rating, again the highest ESPN has ever had in that market.
Nationally, the game drew a 2.4 rating, translating to about three million viewers.
There's no reason to believe games coming later in the year will be any less anticipated, given the likelihood of both teams jockeying for control of the Pacific Division and playoff positioning, generally. As long as both teams are competitive and maintain their current cores, each matchup will bring serious buzz, on the floor and off.
Now if we can just figure out a way to get a Hallway Series this spring...