The Los Angeles Lakers managed to get their seven-game road trip started on the right foot with a dominant victory over the Sacramento Kings and will now have the benefit of making a quick return home to Staples Center to take on the L.A. Clippers on Sunday afternoon.
This will be the second of three matchups between the L.A. teams this season. The Lakers will be looking to avenge their 116-109 loss to the Clippers in the opener the first time around.
They will be shorthanded once again with their trio of stars in LeBron James (ankle), Anthony Davis (calf) and Andre Drummond (toe) each sidelined with injuries. Wes Matthews is also out as he continues to nurse a neck injury he suffered in the loss versus the Milwaukee Bucks, which was reaggravated against the Kings.
Marc Gasol filled in quite nicely for Drummond in the starting lineup as a major facilitator on offense with five points, six assists, and nine rebounds against Sacramento. Regardless, they will still need big games from Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder if they hope to make up for the absence of their star duo.
The Clippers will once again be without Serge Ibaka as he recovers from a back injury and Patrick Beverley still remains out with a knee injury. However, they received a much-needed boost with the return of Paul George to the starting lineup during their loss to the Denver Nuggets and they will have the benefit of having two full days of rest for their matchup with the Lakers.
Additionally, Clippers head coach Ty Lue confirmed that point guard Rajon Rondo will make his team debut against his former squad in the Lakers.
Rondo was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in a trade for Lou Williams at the trade deadline on March 25. He played an integral role in helping the Lakers secure their 17th championship and the Clippers are now hoping that pedigree can pay some dividends for them.
Rondo recently squared off against his former team during the Hawks’ 99-94 victory at Staples Center on March 20. The veteran playmaker finished with two points, five assists and three rebounds.
While the Lakers continue to struggle with turnovers, their efforts on the glass have helped make up for it as evidenced by their recent win when they out-rebounded the Kings 54-38. Of course, the combined defensive prowess of Leonard and George will make it much more difficult to keep up if they do not take care of the ball.
The onus will fall on Montrezl Harrell to get the offense going early on against his former team. Despite putting up just five points in 17 minutes versus Sacramento, he is still shooting 57.9% from the field and averaging 18.2 points over the last 10 games.
Meanwhile, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope managed to enjoy a bounce-back game with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line and 10 rebounds. This will be an ideal opportunity for Caldwell-Pope to keep that momentum going following his recent shooting slump.
Although the standings may not necessarily reflect their status as the top two contenders in the Western Conference, there is still plenty of anticipation left from last season regarding a potential inner-city matchup down the road in the postseason. For now, the Lakers will have to settle for moving ahead of the Clippers for the third seed in the West with a tiebreaker win on Sunday afternoon.
Lakers (31-18) vs. Clippers (32-18)
12:30 p.m. PT, April 4, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: ABC, Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alfonzo McKinnie
Projected Clippers starting lineup:
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Kawhi Leonard
SF: Paul George
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: Nicolas Batum, Terance Mann, Lukę Kennard, Rajon Rondo
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