The L.A. Clippers (22-9) play the Los Angeles Lakers (11-22) for a 7:30 p.m. PST tip-off during the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule.
The Lakers will start trying to reclaim Los Angeles as their own, while the Clippers will continue working towards an NBA Finals.
Both teams started the season hot, and both L.A. teams have cooled off recently. Sports Illustrated ranked it as the No. 5 game in today’s slate of games.
The Clippers have the third-best record in the Western Conference, while the Lakers are in the 12th spot in the same standings.
Added, the Lakers are off the longest road trip of their season. They had five double-digit losses, two third-quarter collapses, one new noteworthy injury, and a single win against the Philadelphia 76ers, per the Los Angeles Times.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton said his team is not going to quit despite recent struggles.
“We’re going to keep fighting until we figure it out,” Walton said via the L.A. Daily News.
His team has lost 12 of their last 13 games. They just concluded a seven-game road trip.
Now, the Lakers will play four games in a week.
They will rely on steady contributions from Lou Williams, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Nick Young and Julius Randle against the Clippers. All five players average double-digit points for the season. The Lakers will need their depth to play well if they want to win this L.A. battle.
That Lakers depth has also battled injuries this entire month. Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. will have an MRI exam on Sunday to determine the extent of his knee injury. Center Tarik Black is also listed as questionable, since injuring himself earlier this month.
Expect Williams to continue his bench scoring versus the Clippers. Williams averages 18.9 points this season, despite coming off the bench all year.
On the other hand, the Clippers also have reasons for exhaustion. The Clippers played four games in six days last week. This week, they will play five games in seven days. Nonetheless, the Clippers are 8-7 in their last 15 games.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said the NBA loves his team, that’s why they play a lot. Jordan also said that this game is against another team that they have to beat. The center also downplayed the L.A. rivalry.
Either way, Jordan may be the best player on either team in this game. Jordan averages 11.6 points, 13 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for the season.
Further, both of Jordan’s superstar teammates may not play in this Christmas Day contest.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin will miss this game as he recovers from a knee injury. Guard Chris Paul is also listed as questionable. He missed Friday’s game versus the Dallas Mavericks, and guard Raymond Felton got the start.
According to Sports Illustrated, Paul versus his hamstring is the biggest matchup to watch in this game. The article says that Paul should help the Clippers roll to a win. However, the young Lakers could make this game competitive if Paul sits out.
Clippers guard Austin Rivers should step into Paul’s role as a scorer, even Rivers does not start at point guard. Rivers is averaging a career-high 9.3 points per game this season. He also averages 2.1 assists and 1.6 rebounds.
Forward Paul Pierce should continue starting for the Clippers in Griffin’s absence. Pierce has registered 3.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per game this season.
Pierce, an L.A. native, could be a key player versus the young Lakers. His size and range could be a factor in the latest installment of the Pacific Division rivalry.
In the last four seasons, the Clippers have claimed 11 consecutive wins over their Staples Center counterparts. The Clippers have defeated the Lakers in 15 of the last 16 contests, including last season’s series sweep.
The Clippers and Lakers last played on April 6th of last season. This will be the first of four games between the two teams in 2017. They play again on Jan. 14, March 21 and April 1.
You can tune into this NBA matchup on ESPN during your Christmas Day activities.
[Featured Image by Mark J. Terrill/AP Images]