Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers will face another of the NBA’s top teams, as they will be facing the Los Angeles Clippers on the “road”. Yes, this will be a technical road game for the Lakers, their first road game against the Clippers since opening night when the Lakers lost 112-102. The Lakers then lost 111-106 on Christmas Day, in a game that they led for the majority only to let it slip away slowly at the end. Just take a look at this lead tracking graph from NBA’s site to show how the Lakers were in the driver’s seat for most of the second half.
Both teams have evolved since that Christmas Day matchup, through adjustments made in-game as well as new players being added. The Lakers did not make a trade before the deadline this year, but the Clippers did, losing Moe Harkless and others in a trade package to attain Marcus Morris from the New York Knicks. They also signed Reggie Jackson in the buyout market, while the Lakers decided to sign Marcus’ brother Markieff Morris in the buyout market. The Lakers also recently signed Dion Waiters, although he is expected to not play for a couple of weeks until he is acclimated within the team. In addition, we have to acknowledge the death of Kobe Bryant that happened last month, as it was that event that led to the team’s originally scheduled third game to be postponed to April.
Although many things have affected these teams’ changes between Christmas and now, there’s one thing that remains the same. It all comes down to the duos of the Lakers’ LeBron James and Anthony Davis versus the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Both teams hitting their strides
Something will have to give in this early afternoon game, as one team will have their winning streaks snapped at the hands of the other. The Clippers are currently on a six-game winning streak, coming off of an impressive 120-105 win on the road against the Houston Rockets. They haven’t lost since their first game back from the All-Star break, where they laid an egg in an early Sunday game against the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are on a three-game winning streak but are actually 10-1 in their last 11 games dating back to before the All-Star break. They’ve also accumulated some impressive wins in that time span, beating the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans on the road while beating two of the best teams in the East at home, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
LeBron James looks to continue entering the MVP conversation
This year’s MVP is basically Giannis Antetounkmpo’s to lose, but there’s definitely a clear-cut runner-up starting to emerge, and that’s LeBron James.
On the year, LeBron is averaging 25.6 points, 10.7 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game. However, it’s his recent stretch of games as well as the Lakers’ current success that is catapulting him into MVP discussions. In his seven games played since the All-Star break, LeBron is averaging 30.4 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 36% on 7.1 three-point attempts per game. This is the type of LeBron that the Lakers are going to need to beat the Clippers of the world, with an example of that happening just this Friday as the Lakers beat the Bucks, 113-103. In the game, The King had 37 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds.
LeBron hasn’t had explosive performances in either of the Lakers’ two losses against the Clippers, scoring 18 points on opening night and 23 points on Christmas Day. The Lakers have shown that if LeBron is scoring in a big way that they’re basically unbeatable, currently being 20-0 when LeBron scores 30 or more points in a game.
As it’s evident that LeBron is starting to really take it up a notch with these elite opponents in the Lakers’ way and the playoffs looming large, you have to imagine that he will bring it again today. If he does, the Lakers will probably be able to pull out a win, which would put quite the exclamation point on a very impressive weekend of wins.