Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers (-13.5, 205.5)
The Los Angeles Lakers (9-39, 4-22 Away) have the second-worst record in the NBA, but they’ll still have a puncher’s chance tonight (10:30 PM Eastern) when they take on their co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers (30-16, 15-7 Home), at the Staples Center. (Too soon, Blake?)
The Lakers haven’t won since January 12 (versus New Orleans) and are currently riding an eight-game losing streak. Tonight will be the second of back-to-back games for the Western Conference’s last-place team, who were trounced 114-91 by the Bulls yesterday. The Lakers shot a dismal 37.6-percent from the floor, and the home crowd let them know how it felt about the performance.
“They had every right to [boo],” said coach Byron Scott to the Associated Press. “From my standpoint, you start questioning if this is important to guys because it can’t be every now and then.”
Kobe Bryant (15.5 PPG) was back in the lineup after getting the previous game off, but he ended up shooting four of 13 from the floor and two of seven from three-point land. The veteran ended the night with ten points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. Lou Williams (15.2 PPG), meanwhile, missed the game with a respiratory ailment.
Williams and Bryant – the team’s two leading scorers – should both be in the lineup tonight and the team will need them to be more efficient than usual if the Lakers are going to keep pace with the high-scoring Clippers (104 PPG).
The Clippers got the job done with defense last time out, beating the Hawks 85-83 in Atlanta. Jamal Crawford had 21 points and DeAndre Jordan added 13 and 19 rebounds.
The Clippers have had their share of distractions of late thanks to star forward Blake Griffin punching the team’s equipment manager. Griffin had already missed a chunk of time with a quad injury and is now expected to miss another four to six weeks with a broken hand. The rest of the team seems to have coalesced without Griffin, though, going 13-3 without the big man in the lineup.
The recent hot streak has helped the Clippers close the gap on OKC for third in the Western Conference; they now sit four games back of the Thunder. But a division title already looks out of reach with the Warriors opening up a 12-game lead.
The Clippers have won nine of the last ten games in the series, outscoring the Lakers 113.4 to 95.1. They may start to miss Griffin at some point, but it won’t be tonight against Kobe and his basketball-challenged teammates.
Pick: Clippers (-13.5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)