Reigning NBA champions, the LA Lakers will play their eighth consecutive game without four-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP winner LeBron James. Meanwhile, the LA Clippers will be at full strength, but they are coming off consecutive losses against the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets at home.
A solid win against the Sacramento Kings on the road was huge for the LA Lakers, as they had fallen in four of the first six games without 'The King' this season. The LA Lakers are fourth in the NBA's Western Conference with a 31-18 record and are just 0.5 behind the LA Clippers (32-18).
This matchup will be the second between the two teams, with the LA Clippers beating the LA Lakers on the opening night on December 22nd, 2020.
LA Lakers vs LA Clippers prediction
The previous game between the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers had both teams at full strength.
Now, the LA Clippers will have a favorable matchup against an injury-depleted LA Lakers' squad; the reigning champions are without LeBron James (high ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (who has missed the last 21 games with Achilles issues).
The LA Clippers have a 7-3 record in their previous ten games, but consecutive losses have put them three games behind the second-seeded Phoenix Suns. Tyronn Lue's team are only two games ahead of the sixth-placed Portland Trail Blazers.
Meanwhile, the LA Lakers have had a difficult run without their two superstars but have managed to win three of their seven games without James. In this stretch without 'The King', the LA Lakers have had the second-worst Offensive Rating in the NBA, with 101.3 points scored per 100 possessions.
However, Frank Vogel's team have been good defensively in this period, as they have the third-best Defensive Rating in the league since March 21st, which marked their first game after James' ankle injury. Solid defense will be essential against Kawhi Leonard's LA Clippers, as a loss could mean the LA Lakers losing their fourth seed.
Meanwhile, the LA Clippers have the third-best offense in the league this season, scoring 117.9 points per 100 possessions. In defense, they have been underwhelming but are still ranked in 12th with a Defensive Rating of 111.6.
On that note, let's have a look at a hypothetical combined starting five of the LA Lakers and the LA Lakers.
LA Lakers vs LA Clippers combined starting 5
Point Guard - Dennis Schroder | Shooting Guard - Kawhi Leonard | Small Forward - Paul George | Power Forward - Marcus Morris | Center - Montrezl Harrell.
The LA Lakers' current leaders on the court have performed a little better than expected. Point guard Dennis Schroder has been key for the reigning champions in offense even though they are struggling in that area.
Schroder has put up 15.4 points and five assists per game with 44/33/83 shooting splits for the season. In the last seven games without James, Schroder has been good in offense, averaging 19 points and seven assists per game with 45/46/83 splits.
Leonard is putting up great numbers this season and has been in the conversation for the NBA MVP award this year. The two-time Finals MVP has put up 25.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game with 51/39/88 shooting splits.
Meanwhile, the much-criticized Paul George has registered great numbers, averaging 22 points, 6.3 rebound, and a team-high 5.5 assists per game. He also has good shooting numbers: 47% shooting efficiency from the field, 42% from the three-point line and 88% from the free-throw mark.
Marcus Morris has also been efficient for the LA Clippers. He is the team's third-best scorer with 12.6 points per game and has the sixth-best 3P field-goal percentage (46.2%) in the league this season.
To complete our hypothetical combined starting lineup, we have Montrezl Harrell, a former LA Clippers player who is now doing big things for the LA Lakers.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner has been huge for the LA Lakers this season. He has also been available for the team in 49 games this season. Harrell is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game off the bench and has made a whopping 63% of his field goals too.
In James' absence, Harrell has averaged 18.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while making 59.8% of his shots and getting a few more minutes than usual