Clippers and Lakers will face off hungry for a win and elusive positive momentum
Road-weary and each hovering near .500, the Lakers and Clippers arrive for their meeting Thursday at Crypto.com Arena in much the same position, seeking the same goal — a victory that could lead to any semblance of momentum.
With the NBA’s trade deadline arriving in just one week and the postseason in 10, each franchise is firmly in the race for the play-in round, which pits the seventh through 10th seeds in a prelude to the playoffs.
Since leading scorer Paul George suffered a torn ligament in his shooting elbow in late December, the Clippers (26-27) are 9-12 — and coming off a 4-4 trip — but three victories in their last three weeks have come while trailing by at least 24 points, the first team in league history to do that.
The Lakers (24-27) could not gain ground in the Western Conference standings after a 2-4 road trip and could have their own superstar void after LeBron James missed Wednesday’s game against Portland because of soreness in his left knee.
Amir Coffey and Reggie Jackson combine for 48 points, but it’s not enough as Clippers fall to the Pacers, who are led by Isaiah Jackson’s 26 points and 10 rebounds.
For teams whose seasons have looked similar in many ways, they are most different in their performance in the last five minutes of games within five points. The Clippers have outscored opponents by 16 points per 100 possessions in the so-called “clutch” scenarios, while the Lakers have been outscored by two points. It’s a subject the Lakers already know well, after crisp execution led to three three-pointers by Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris Sr. to seal the Clippers’ 119-115 victory in these teams’ only other meeting this season, on Dec. 3.
With Clippers starting center Ivica Zubac questionable because of a sore right calf, backup Serge Ibaka could be in line for his second consecutive start in what could be his last days with the team, given his expiring contract. Ibaka played in only 41 of the team’s 91 games last season because of what the team said was a hurt back. After declaring himself healthy in November, however, Ibaka could not beat out Isaiah Hartenstein, who arrived to training camp without a guaranteed contract, for the backup minutes. Ibaka has often been the odd man out of the center rotation when all three big men have been healthy.
All 15 of the Clippers’ roster spots are currently filled. If any vacancy is opened at the deadline, the Clippers could reward Amir Coffey’s resurgence with a standard NBA contract to hold onto the versatile young player longer.
The subtraction of George from coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation has led to the addition of Coffey, a two-way wing in his third season who did not play in the last game against the Lakers, yet has become impactful in every way since, averaging 13.9 points, with just 0.7 turnovers per game, on nearly 50% shooting. A career 38% three-point shooter, he made 41.5% of his attempts from distance in January.
Earlier this season, Anthony Davis was bullish on the Lakers’ prospects for a strong season. His tune has changed a bit amid the team’s struggles.
When: 7 p.m., Thursday.
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 710, 1220.
Update: Clippers guard Jay Scrubb will not play because of turf toe, and rookie guard Keon Johnson remains on assignment in the G League.
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