Lakers face Clipper team coming off blockbuster trade

The Lakers take on the Clippers, a team that has beaten them 11 straight times.

LOS ANGELES — The timing can be real funny, sometimes.

The Lakers are trying to figure things out when, right before the clock turned midnight and the day turned to Tuesday, the crosstown rival Clippers snuck a trade that had been rumored for months. They acquired James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Not only that but the Clippers also acquired P.J. Tucker (and Filip Petrusev, who has yet to step foot on an NBA court). The Sixers would receive Marcus Morris Sr., Robert Covington, KJ Martin, Nicolas Batum, and a gamut of picks. And the Clippers got to keep Norman Powell, Terance Mann, and Bones Hyland.

And yes, we know why we’re talking about the Clips here. The Lakers are taking on the Clippers on Wednesday night.

The bad news for the Clippers is that they’re on a second game of a back-to-back after they defeated the Orlando Magic on Tuesday (by the way, the Lakers beat the Magic on Monday). So we don’t know if Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are available as of this writing. James Harden won’t be available as the plan is for him to get a few reps in with the team. Harden has yet to play this season. There’s also no word yet about P.J. Tucker.

Still, those names I just mentioned for the Clippers make them look potentially scary. Of course, there’s a chemistry risk here; we know Harden’s history of forcing his way out of teams in the last few years. But maybe Harden being back home in Southern California will make him that much more comfortable. This was his preferred destination, after all.

And the Clippers still have Russell Westbrook, who seems to be his enjoying his time with the Clippers much better than the Lakers. The aforementioned Powell and Hyland can score in bunches while they have big bodies in Ivica Zubac and Mason Plumlee. Amir Coffey and their rookie Kobe Brown will be asked to step up if their stars can’t play on Wednesday.

The Clippers are currently the best defensive team in the league. Of course, it helps when you have Kawhi and PG covering everywhere. And both of these stars are shooting threes on an ungodly percentage. They are a huge reason why they lead the league in three-point percentage at .423.

As for the Lakers’ injury report, Rui Hachimura will be out for the second straight game with an eye contusion while Gabe Vincent is doubtful with knee soreness. And of course, Jarred Vanderbilt won’t be available for, at least, a few weeks. His energy is sorely missed as the Lakers look like they’re sleepwalking at times.

They do seem to get better defensively over time so that’s something. The Lakers did lead after the first quarter against Orlando and that was the first time that happened this season. They need to get off to better starts. But the Lakers have had a habit of getting beat by dives and giving too much space on defense in this young season. The Lakers also have made it a conscious effort to get the ball to Anthony Davis but there isn’t a lot of movement on the ball, especially when LeBron is sitting. They have to tighten everything up from offense to defense to Darvin Ham’s rotations.

Christian Wood has played well so far and, again, his talent is undeniable; it’s just getting his head in the right place. Austin Reaves has struggled in shooting so far; we talked about him being out of rhythm in the first couple of games and then he couldn’t make any shots against Sacramento. D’Angelo Russell had a hell of a game on Tuesday when he scored 28.

The Clippers are looking to get their 12th straight win against the Lakers. Can the Lakers finally break this streak? Or will the Clippers continue this domination? Either way, the Lakers need this win to go over .500 for the first time. They could do it five games into the season while last year, it took place with five games left in the season.

It’s another huge test for the Lakers, provided the Clippers’ stars play on Wednesday night.