After a full week away from a tumultuous season, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in action on Friday night. In their first game of the final stretch, they’ll face the L.A. Clippers in near desperate need of a win.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him, as they face the Clippers without Anthony Davis. Davis suffered a mid-foot sprain in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, and now they must figure out a way to compete without him.
This is also a crucial game in the standings, with the two L.A. teams tied in the loss column at 31 apiece. Vogel recognizes this challenge and the importance of setting the tone. “It’s important. We want to come out of the gates playing as well as we can, we have a lot of ground to make up,” Vogel said of the Lakers’ place in the playoff picture.
“So definitely the fact that it’s against one of the teams that we want to catch in the standings, definitely makes it more important.”
On a more personal level, the Lakers are trying to snap a five-game losing streak against the Clippers. They have not won a head-to-head matchup since July 30, 2020, in the first “seeding game” of the Walt Disney World Bubble.
“Well it’s not fun,” Vogel said of the losing streak. “Obviously their games carry a little bit more internal importance for our city, for our organization. But at the end of the day, they’re just another team in the Western Conference that we have to compete with. You don’t want to lose five straight to any team, so hopefully we can reverse that tonight.”
With the two teams so close in the standings — the Clippers at No. 8 and the Lakers at No. 9 — it’s theoretically possible they meet in a Play-In Game. However, Vogel hasn’t gotten that far into it.
“Not really, to be honest. But any of those teams can be in that Play-In.”
Getting a win against the Clippers right out of the gates would be massive for the Lakers. First, it would bring them within 0.5 games of the No. 8 seed, but it would also instill confidence in the locker room for a critical run of games.
After the Clippers, they play five consecutive Western Conference teams either in the playoffs or fighting for a Play-In spot, including the Clippers again. A loss would set a bad tone with an uphill battle ahead.
Vogel excited for normalcy without masks
L.A.’s mask mandate was recently lifted, meaning masks will no longer be a part of the equation on the Lakers sideline. Vogel spoke about this change and what it means for the team. “For me, I’ve been able to coach without a mask all season. I wore a mask during the surge so to speak.
“But I know my assistant coaches are very excited to resume to some semblance of normalcy not having to wear a mask. Who knows where the pandemic will go from here, but hopefully this is another stepping stone for the world coming back to normal.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!