Despite it being their fifth straight loss, the Los Angeles Lakers played the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers tough Sunday night, leading for most of the game.
They ultimately fell in the fourth quarter, but the team’s young core of players put one of their best games of the season together, led by D’Angelo Russell’s career-high 40 points.
The Lakers return to the court Tuesday night looking to build off that performance, as they host the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Lakers and Clippers backcourts could not be more opposite as the Clippers boast a veteran experienced backcourt in Chris Paul and J.J. Reddick, while the Lakers have one of the youngest guard duos in the league in Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Russell got his first career start at shooting guard Sunday night and responded with a career night, so the Lakers may have found something with their young combo guard. Russell has played some of the best basketball of his career since the All-Star break, averaging 19.4 points and 4.8 assists on 45.0 percent shooting and 38.6 percent from three-point range.
Clarkson has had similar success since the All-Star break and trade of Lou Williams, as he has scored at least 14 points in every game since the break, averaging 19.3 points.
The Lakers will have their hands full defensively with nine-time All-Star and one of the best floor generals in NBA history Chris Paul. He missed some time with an injury this season, but he is back to playing at his normal high level, ranking fourth in the league in assists at 9.3 per game.
The Clippers also have one of the best bench guards of the last decade in Jamal Crawford. He’s having a bit of a down season as his 12.2 points per game are the lowest for him since the 2002-03 NBA season, but Crawford still has a natural scoring ability and can maker any shot at any time.
The Clippers also have a star-studded frontcourt that features five-time All-Star Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who was named an All-Star for the first time this season.
Griffin has been limited to just 50 games this season due to a knee injury, but he has still been productive when he’s been on the court. Despite shooting a career-low 48.8 percent from the field, Griffin is still averaging 21.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He has worked on his jump shot over the years and has developed into a more complete offensive player as he can finish at the rim or from outside in addition to being able ti handle the ball extremely well for a big man.
Jordan is known more for his defense than his offense but is still averaging 12.5 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting an astounding 70.4 percent from the field.
The Lakers young frontcourt of Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac will have their hands full defensively. Both young players have been impressive on the offensive end of the floor in recent weeks, though, as Randle scored a career-high 32 points a few games ago against the Houston Rockets, and Zubac also had a career night when he scored 25 points against the Denver Nuggets.
Zubac has averaged 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds the last five games since he was inserted into the starting lineup.
Three Keys To Victory
Play With Confidence:
If nothing else on Sunday night, the young Lakers proved that they could play with anybody in this league as they took the defending NBA champions to the limit. They have to continue to play with that confidence night in and night out and they will begin to see some of the results change.
Contain Chris Paul:
When Paul is playing at his best, he is getting to the basket, either creating layups or easy midrange jumpers for himself, or if the defense helps on him, then he either throws easy lobs to Griffin or Jordan, or kicks it out to a wide open Reddick in the corner for an open three. It won’t be easy but whoever is guarding Paul has to keep him in front of them and turn him into a jump shooter.
There has been a direct correlation this season in the results of the Lakers games and how many turnovers they have. They had just six turnovers Sunday against the Cavaliers and were leading for most of the game. If the Lakers can take care of the ball, then it gives them a much better chance to will, plain and simple.
Los Angeles Clippers (42-29) Vs. Los Angeles Lakers (20-50)
7:30 P.M. PST, March 21, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: J.J. Reddick
SF: Luc Richard Mbah A Moute
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights, Paul Pierce
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: Nick Young, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, Corey Brewer