Lakers face Clippers for final time this season

The Lakers and Clippers are playing their final game against each other as co-tenants at Crypto.Com Arena.

LOS ANGELES — Going into the All-Star break, the Lakers won 6 of their last 7 games. Since then, they’ve lost two of their last three. They never recovered from a late Warriors first half surge in San Francisco last Thursday. They held on and survived a Victor Wembanyama 5×5 performance against the San Antonio Spurs the next night. And then the Suns dumped 45 on them in the first quarter as the Lakers took the L in Phoenix on Sunday.

The Lakers (31-28) have had two days off to think about it. Now they face a Clippers team that has been very hot and cold as of late. Clips are 37-19 and in fourth place in a crowded top of the Western Conference mountain.

The Clippers have alternated wins and losses in their last 7 games after going 6-1 in the Grammy trip last month. Their latest setback saw them struggle in a double-digit loss against the Beam Team, the Sacramento Kings. They’re also going to go into Wednesday’s game without Paul George, who we know has been a two-way dynamo ever since he came into the league. Not to mention that Ivica Zubac might not play due to an illness. Otherwise, the Clippers should have the rest of the troops with them.

The Lakers have beaten the Clippers two out of three times this season. In their latest duel, the Clippers outlasted the Lakers and won, 127-116. The two things that we have harped about with the Lakers immediately stand out in that particular game.

The low energy that we have talked about comes into play yet again. This leads to huge runs and quarters by their opponents and the second quarter from that Jan. 23 game stood out. The Clippers scored 42 points in that 12-minute period. Yes, the Lakers did make a valiant effort to come back but they should never rely on those comebacks, especially since they expend so much energy doing that sort of thing.

The Lakers tend to leave three-point shooters so often that we wonder if this is actually part of their scheme. It shouldn’t be. The Clippers went 14 for 27 (.519) in their last game and while it wasn’t a lot of attempts, they tended to have a lot of space to shoot and made them in a timely manner. Norman Powell made a bomb when the Lakers had cut the deficit to two. And then Amir Coffey made another to essentially put the game away. The Clippers are second in three-point percentage going into this in-city rivalry game so the Lakers better keep their beady eyes on the marksmen.

LeBron James didn’t play in that game and he is questionable for this one as well. But whether he’s available or not shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to their energy and their perimeter defense.

While George (and maybe Zubac) won’t make it on the court, let’s remember how top-heavy these Clips are. Kawhi Leonard got a triple-double in their last match-up against the Lakers. James Harden went for 23 points and a dollar’s worth of dimes (that’s 10 assists, people). And Russell Westbrook, who moved back to the bench to make room for his teammate in three total teams (James Harden teamed up with Russ in Oklahoma City and Houston previously), has been a huge sparkplug off the pine along with Norman Powell. The Clips also have guys like Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, and Bones Hyland. It’s a team that seems poised for a title run.

Still, the Lakers feel they can have a title run of their own if everyone gets healthy and gets it together. Feels like if you have LeBron James (even if he’s 88 years old) and Anthony Davis, anything seems possible. Cam Reddish is listed as probable for this game. Gabe Vincent is getting closer to a return (I think). Jarred Vanderbilt could be back in a few weeks. Those would all be a boost and could help out the supporting cast of D’Angelo Russell (who we know is capable of going on an offensive run), Austin Reaves (whose poise can’t be understated), Rui Hachimura (can score in bunches if aggressive), Max Christie (can become a consistent defensive stopper with more experience), and Taurean Prince (has been up and down but is certainly a capable 3-and-D dude).

So it’s the Lakers and Clippers for the last time this year. Unless, of course, they finally get that long-awaited playoff match-up in the spring.