After a quick one-game trip to Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers return to Staples Center for a ‘road’ game against the rival Clippers. The Lakers will be looking to split the season series this year, but have been blown out in the last two match-ups after winning on Christmas night.
The Lakers come into this game having lost three straight games. In Minnesota on Thursday, the Lakers fought hard, but were unable to contain the Timberwolves. The biggest loss on that night however, was rookie center Ivica Zubac going down with a high ankle sprain. He will be gone for the rest of the season.
The Clippers come in having won six of their last eight games as every game matters for them as far as playoff positioning. They are trying to catch the Jazz for the fourth seed and home court advantage, but also have the Thunder on their heels as well.
This game should also mark the return of Brandon Ingram, who has missed the Lakers’ last three games with patella tendonitis.
The Clippers have one of the best point guards in the NBA in Chris Paul. The veteran is still operating at a high level and is capable of beating any team with his scoring or passing ability. He also locks down defensively.
Next to Paul is one of the NBA’s best shooters in JJ Redick. A career 41.4 percent three-point shooter, Redick is always a threat when he’s on the court and the Lakers must make sure to have a hand in his face at all times. He will run through a number of screens so whoever is guarding him must stay attached to his hip.
Jamal Crawford remains one of the best bench scorers in the NBA and Raymond Felton has been solid for the Clippers as well.
The young Lakers backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson has really come together recently. Though Russell had a rough night on Thursday, he had averaged nearly 25 points and six assists in the Lakers’ previous five games. Clarkson meanwhile is averaging 17.3 points and 3.8 assists since moving into the starting lineup.
They have also started to pick up the intensity on defense recently so that will need to continue. Off the bench, David Nwaba and Tyler Ennis have given the Lakers a real spark as of late. Nwaba brings a ton of energy an really locks in on defense. Ennis has been a bit of a surprise, but is averaging 12.3 points and three assists over the last three games.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan form one of the best big man duos in the entire NBA. They are big, strong, and extremely athletic.
Jordan remains one of the league’s best defensive centers. He ranks third in the league in rebounds, and seventh in blocks. He is also one of the best rim runners in basketball and finishes everything with authority.
Griffin is one of the better all-around players in the league. In the last five games he is averaging 22 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.8 steals. He can handle the ball very well for a big man and creates for himself and others. The Lakers must figure out a way to keep him contained.
Luc Mbah a Moute is the last starter and while he isn’t much of an offensive threat, he is an excellent one-on-one defender. Off the bench the Clippers have a couple of veterans with championship experience in Paul Pierce and Marresse Speights.
Brandon Ingram returns to the starting lineup for the Lakers, but he will be on a minutes restriction. Before his injury he was enjoying his best stretch of basketball of his rookie season, scoring in double-figures in 10 consecutive games while providing solid rebounding and playmaking. It will be interesting to see if he is able to get right back into his groove.
Julius Randle continues his up-and-down season. Against the Timberwolves Randle got a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, but in the two games before that he had only 10 points total. He must figure out a way bring the effort consistently, especially against a talent like Griffin.
With Zubac out Larry Nance Jr. will step into the starting lineup. He will be giving up a lot of size, but is one of the Lakers’ best defenders. He will have the tough task trying to keep the bigger Jordan off the offensive glass.
Tarik Black had an excellent game in place of Zubac against the Timberwolves and Thomas Robinson will likely see some minutes as well with Zubac gone. Corey Brewer will also provied some wing minutes off the bench with his speed and defense.
Three Keys To Victory:
Crash The Glass: Despite having DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers aren’t a great rebounding team. However, if Jordan gets going he can take over the game by creating multiple possessions for his team. The Lakers must keep him off the offensive glass.
Limit Turnovers: Turnovers are always a problem for young guards, but against the Clippers it is the worst possible thing. Chris Paul running the break with Griffin and Jordan while Redick is spotting up is impossible to guard. Russell and Clarkson have to take care of the ball and not let the Clippers get into ‘Lob City’ mode.
Maintain Effort Throughout The Game: Effort has been an issue for the Lakers all year as they can sulk and put their heads down when teams make runs. The Clippers can get the building buzzing with some spectacular plays so the Lakers can’t afford to put their heads down. They have to keep grinding even when things get tough.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-54) Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (46-31)
12:30 P.M. PST, April 1, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: J.J. Redic
SF: Luc Mbah a Moute
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Paul Pierce, Marreese Speights
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Larry Nance Jr.
Key Reserves: David Nwaba, Tyler Ennis, Tarik Black, Corey Brewer, Thomas Robinson