NBA

NBA Game of the Week: Lakers look for their first win against the Clippers since 2020

By Sports Desk November 08, 2022

It must not be a great time to be a Los Angeles Lakers fan right now.

Granted, pre-season optimism hits followers of any NBA team, and the glass-half-full theory around the Lakers was that Darvin Ham would be able to get a tune out of a team of superstars that has flattered to deceive since 2020.

So far, that has not happened, and despite still being early in the campaign, things are already threatening to get away from them.

Monday's 139-116 defeat at the Utah Jazz took the Lakers to 2-8 from their first 10 outings, and they are about to face a Clippers side that is hitting form.

Having started their season with a 103-97 win against the Lakers before another victory in Sacramento, Tyronn Lue's team then lost four in a row as people started to question if they were going to go the same way as their neighbours.

However, back-to-back wins against the Houston Rockets followed by successes against the Spurs and the Cavaliers either side of a loss to the Jazz have the Clippers at 6-5 and in seventh place in the Western Conference.

The Lakers are just one place off bottom in the West, having lost their first five games before a brief hint of a turnaround with wins against the Nuggets and the Pelicans was extinguished by three more defeats.

LeBron James did not feature against the Jazz on Monday due to a sore foot, but reports suggest that was the result of playing the night before, so Ham may be able to call on his experience on Wednesday.

While the debates still rage about the use of Russell Westbrook, he scored 22 points in Utah with a team-leading five assists as well as three rebounds, while Anthony Davis' 29 points will likely need to be repeated if they are to have a chance against their local rivals.

Paul George will have something to say about that after his 26 points in the win against the Cavs, on a night in which the Clippers shared the wealth, with six different players reaching double figures for points.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers – Paul George

It was not only against Cleveland that George has thrived this season, boasting an average over his first 10 outings at 25.3 points per game, with Marcus Morris Sr claiming the next highest average with 15.0.

George only scored 15 against the Lakers last month, but he has pushed on to become the league's 14th highest scoring player per game so far in a team that has struggled for high scores.

Los Angeles Lakers – Anthony Davis

Should he play, it'll probably be James again, who in spite of questions about his age is still averaging 24.3 points per game; but with uncertainty about whether he will feature, as mentioned, Davis will need to perform well either way.

The 29-year-old is currently matching his points per game from last season (23.2), with his rebound numbers slightly up so far (10.3 from 9.9).

KEY BATTLES – Clippers must find points from somewhere

The Clippers may have recovered in recent games, but they are still struggling to score points, with their average of 103.8 the lowest in the NBA by more than three (the Wizards have the next lowest with 107.0).

With Kawhi Leonard still sidelined, the onus will fall on George, but others will need to step up and help him put numbers on the board.

The saving grace is that they come up against a Lakers team averaging 116.3 points conceded this season, with just six teams in the league allowing more against per game.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Recent contests have been dominated by the Clippers, with their opening-game victory last month their eighth in a row against the Lakers, who have not beaten their rivals since July 30, 2020 during their bubble season success.

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    Doncic exchanged words with Allen during a 111-105 win in which he scored a phenomenal 53 points for the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

    The Slovenian star approached Allen on the bench in the closing stages of the game and suggested he made a mistake by being a little too vocal.

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    "From the first quarter, he was chirping. I don't want to say the words. I have no problem with that. It's basketball. It gets me going for sure."

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    "I liked it. I thought it really got us going, and that's the way it should be with competitive guys. Doncic is competitive as heck. I love the way he plays, the way he carries himself, and I love the way our guys responded.

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    It is the fourth time this season the prolific Doncic had racked up 50 points in a game and his 53-point haul was the joint-second highest for Dallas, matching Dirk Nowitzki's total against the Houston Rockets on in 2004.

    Doncic set the record with 60 against the New York Knicks last month.

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    Lillard was the star of the show in the Portland Trail Blazers' 129-125 home win against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 42 points on 10-of-21 shooting after finishing a perfect 17-of-17 from the free throw line. Only Joel Embiid (nine), Giannis Antetokounmpo (10) and Luka Doncic (11) have scored 40 more often this season.

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    The 23-year-old Slovenian returned to the lineup after missing the Mavericks' loss against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, and he looked on track for a big one from the jump.

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