Lakers take on Clippers for second time this season

It is Round 2 of the hallway series between the Lakers and the Clippers.

At 2-8, the Lakers are sinking deeper into the abyss. They need a win quickly. And even then, they seem so far away from even being .500.

The Clippers play them in Game #11 of their season. It’s a team that has beaten them before this season and they seem to be out of their own funk as they have won four of their last five games, including an incredible comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Clips are currently above .500 with a 6-5 slate.

These two teams are a bit different than the last time they played. The Clippers won that time in an ugly contest. Paul George did lead the team with 15 points (along with John Wall) but he struggled in putting the ball in the hole.

Well, PG-13 is playing some of his best ball right now. In the last five games, he’s averaged 31.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists as well as shooting .449 from three in under 10 attempts per. George tends to play so much better when he’s looked at as the first option. When he’s not that, he becomes more of a quiet presence and doesn’t seem to make as much of an impact. With Kawhi Leonard not playing in 9 of the 11 possible games (he did play against the Lakers, though, in the Clippers’ season opener), George unquestionably becomes their go-to guy.

The Clippers were one of the favorites to win the championship coming into this season. It’s easy to think that because they have the two stars in Kawhi and George to go along with their ridiculous depth. But it’s a little weird that they have not been great offensively; according to, they are 29th out of 30 teams in offensive rating (104.7 points per 100 possessions). By the way, the only team worse than them in that category? I thought you’d never ask but it’s the Lakers, of course.

Anyway, Kawhi has no timetable on his return. Reggie Jackson and especially Norman Powell have not been shooting well although Powell was huge in their comeback against Cleveland, scoring 8 of his 17 in a late 15-0 run. Maybe that’ll turn it around for him. Terence Mann has been productive as of late with the minutes he’s been getting. You can still see John Wall’s burst more than occasionally. Ivica Zubac is 7th in rebounding at 11.1 per game. So the depth is there; they just have to get their offense to catch up to their defense (which is now 4th in rating, allowing 107.7 points per 100 possessions).

Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it?

I can’t put it any more plainly than this but the Lakers simply need to play better for all 48 minutes (more if they have to do overtime). The Lakers have been flourishing in the first half (mainly the second quarter where they average 30.1 points per game, which makes it 6th in the league). But they simply fall apart once they come out of the halftime break. Against Utah on Monday, they made it a point to get Anthony Davis involved in that second half but the Jazz still ran away in that all-important third quarter.

The Lakers get outscored by nearly 5 points in the third (only Minnesota has a worse plus-minus in that quarter). The Lakers also have the second worst third quarter net rating (which is offensive rating minus defensive rating… and, again, only Minnesota is worse in that department). A lot of it is going away from their usual gameplan, especially when they have to try to come back from big deficits. They stop taking good shots and they seem to stop moving around in general on both ends.

It’s hard to find any sort of silver lining with this Laker team. Russell Westbrook has become the best player on the team and he’s been that guy ever since he embraced coming off the bench. I like what Troy Brown, Jr. has provided with his rebounding and defense although he has to shoot better. The hustle of Austin Reaves can’t be ignored and Kendrick Nunn finally put up a good scoring game against Utah.

LeBron James said he will play against the Clippers so that’s good news. Patrick Beverley is probable while Lonnie Walker IV is questionable as of this writing. (UPDATE: Lonnie Walker has now been deemed out.) They need all the weapons they can get for this game.

So the Lakers have to get back to what made them stay in (and win) games: it’s their defense. Again, I don’t like it when they decide to get into a scoring frenzy with their opponents; they simply aren’t constructed like that (which LeBron has hinted many a time). Also, Davis has to demand for the rock in the second half. If they can make it a dirty, ugly, grimy, gritty game like they did in their first match-up against the Clippers, they’re going to have a shot at winning this.

Otherwise, the Lakers record itself will be uglier than it already is. It’s hard to think play-in, let alone playoffs, at this moment. Maybe they’re due for a breakout performance. Maybe they’ll actually progress to the mean. Maybe they’ll take it back to the mid-90s and start going Mortal Kombat on everybody. All kidding aside, maybe they can still play that defense we knew in the games before they took on the Jazz last Friday. No matter what, though, they have to do what they can to avoid a 2-9 mark. I still can’t believe that this LeBron/AD-led team is off to the same start as the 17-win Lakers from 2015-16.

It’s just unfathomable that they’re in this position. For tonight, not only do the Lakers have Los Angeles pride on the line but their pride in general. A 2-9 start for these Lakers? Even that seems worse than the worst nightmare for Laker fans.

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