Lakers Vs. Clippers Preview: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell & Mo Bamba Active For Massive Western Conference Game
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers return to L.A. for a massive matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night. It will be the Lakers’ fourth game in six nights.

The Lakers are coming off an overtime victory against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. That win clinched a spot in the Play-In Tournament. The Clippers have not played since losing to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

There are major Western Conference standing implications and the outcome of the game creates a clearer playoff picture. The Lakers have already lost the season series against the Clippers, so a tiebreaker is out of the question. However, a win would push the Lakers to the No. 5 seed and prime position to finish in at least the top six.

The Lakers would need to split their remaining two games and hope the Clippers do the same to stay ahead of them in the standings. If that scenario happens and the Golden State Warriors split their final two games, then L.A. will be the No. 5 seed. If Golden State goes 2-0, then the Lakers are the No. 6 seed.

Luckily for the Lakers., they enter the matchup completely healthy. D’Angelo Russell returns after missing Tuesday night’s game with left foot soreness. Mo Bamba will be back too after being injured exactly one month ago. It is unclear whether Bamba will be on a minutes restriction or not.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are also suiting up after being listed as questionable in the second game of a back-to-back.

The Clippers are without Marcus Morris Sr. and Paul George, who suffered a sprained right knee in mid-March. With George’s absence, Kawhi Leonard has taken a bulk of the offense into his hands. He dropped 40 points in the Clippers’ previous game and had 32 in the first game after George’s injury. Leonard averaged 27 points per game in the months of January and February but cooled off last month. The Lakers will likely assign Jarred Vanderbilt to Leonard.

One of the many stories of the game revolves around Russell Westbrook’s first game against the Lakers. Westbrook has averaged 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 18 games with the Clippers. He had 36 points just last Friday and has been leaned on more with George out.

It will be interesting to see how the Lakers will defend Westbrook since it can be argued no team knows Westbrook’s flaws more than they do. Westbrook recorded a triple-double against the Lakers the last time he played against them in 2021.

The key for the Lakers, however, will be forcing turnovers and defending the 3-point line.

The Clippers average 14 turnovers a game, which benefits the Lakers’ tendency to score in transition. Before the Westbrook acquisition, the Clippers were a slower team too, but now like to occasionally push the pace leading to more turnovers. They also shoot 38.2% from deep, tied for second-best in the NBA. Luckily for the purple and gold, their defensive rating is the best in the NBA since the trade deadline.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Clippers, but everything seems to click for them once they play the Lakers. The Clippers have beaten the purple and gold 10 straight times, their last loss dating back to the NBA Bubble.

But, nothing will matter if the Lakers secure a win tonight, propelling themselves up the Western Conference standings.

Los Angeles Lakers (41-38) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (41-38)

7:00 p.m. PT, April 5, 2023
Crypto.Com Arena
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: LeBron James
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley, Wenyen Gabriel, Mo Bamba

Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Nicolas Batum
C: Ivica Batum

Key Reserves: Norman Powell, Terance Mann, Mason Plumlee, Robert Covington, Bones Hyland

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