Lakers, Clippers play each other for third time this season

It's Round 3 of the battle of Los Angeles.

The Lakers look to follow up from their two unbelievable wins. They’re back home as they play their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s their third go-round for this hallway series. The Clippers have taken both games thus far but these games happened seemingly eons ago. The Clippers won a close game in the Lakers’ second game of the season (Oct. 20) and they won going away when LeBron James left halfway through the fourth (Nov. 9). This was before the Lakers decided to concentrate their efforts on giving the ball to Anthony Davis.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, they still won’t have a chance to give the ball to him as he’s still out with his injury. What they do have a chance is to move up the standings. The Lakers are 12th in the West right now with a 22-25 record. The Clips are 6th but are also only two games ahead of the Lakers at 25-24. A win by the Lakers will shake up the West big-time.

As for how the Clippers are playing? It didn’t look great recently as they went through a 6-game losing streak. They’re 4-3 since that skid but they did score two big wins over the Dallas Mavericks.

Plus we’re seeing the reemergence of one Kawhi Leonard. After a slow start, Kawhi’s averaged 29.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.9 steals while having .541, .531, and .939 splits (that’s field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentages) over his last 7 games. Because of his injuries, we sometimes forget that he is that good and we would have debates on whether he was the best player in the league when healthy. He’s looking quite good right now and it is dangerous.

Paul George has played three of the last four games after having a bad hamstring. George was playing great basketball before he got hurt; he had a 45-point game against the Pacers on Dec. 31st.

It’s easy to say that the Clippers are “only” 11-7 when Kawhi and PG-13 play together this season. A deeper look shows that the Clippers have an 8.5 net rating when they’re playing on the court together. They’re clearly a much better team with those two.

And Norman Powell is pretty much himself again after he failed to crack double digits in 7 of his first 10 games of the regular season. He’s averaging 19.2 points in the 2023 calendar year (11 games) and shooting .492 from three. And they seem to do very well when he’s the lone guard in the Clippers’ small-ball line-up, a key to the success of their 2021 team that went to the Western Conference Finals.

The Clippers are still barely over .500 because, like the Lakers, they just can’t stay healthy. Laker fans like to point out that Kawhi isn’t available for the Clippers (played 133 out of 275 possible games) just like Anthony Davis (played 163 out of 272 possible) isn’t for the Lakers. Kawhi has only played 22 games this season while Paul George has also missed 16 of 49 games. And as mentioned earlier, the Clippers are 11-7 in the games both stars have played. Much like the Lakers, they just want to get to the finish line. Once they get to the playoffs (play-in?), anything can happen. At their peak, the Clippers are still a championship contender. They were two wins away from the Finals two seasons ago, after all.

Not only did the Lakers manage spectacular victories in their last couple of games but they also made a trade. They acquired forward Rui Hachimura and traded away Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks. Hachimura won’t be available for this game but is expected to be ready Wednesday against San Antonio.

Meanwhile, I just don’t know what to make of these Lakers at the moment after those two aforementioned wins. I do know that LeBron James has been carrying the team on his back. Thomas Bryant and Dennis Schröder had great games against Portland (and we all know what Dennis did against Memphis) and we hope their slumps have been busted. Maybe the law of averages will be in their favor now as they have been clutch the last two games after they couldn’t seem to close any game. I do still hope they can take care of the ball better. They had 12 in the first half of the Portland game but somehow, they had zero in the second half.

LeBron James is questionable yet again but he’s likely to play as he’ll probably be questionable for every game the rest of the season. Davis, Lonnie Walker IV, and Austin Reaves are out again, of course. And with Nunn gone and Hachimura not available, they’ll probably call up one of their two-way players. I would also expect Max Christie to get extra minutes. As for the Clippers, they won’t have Luke Kennard and John Wall available.

Either way, it’s a big game for these two teams as standings and L.A. pride are on the line. Do the Lakers have another trick in their suddenly magical bag? Or do the Clippers keep it one-sided in this crosstown rivalry?

Shoutout to Monterey Park. We love you.

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