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Clippers Continue Fight for Playoff Positioning Against Depleted Lakers

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The crosstown rivals battle for the fourth time this season.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFORMATION:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where You Can Watch: FSPT

How You Can Listen: AM 570 LA Sports Radio

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

LA Clippers: Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Garrett Temple, Ivica Zubac

Los Angeles Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Moritz Wagner

INJURIES:

Clippers: QUESTIONABLE: Patrick Beverley (Right hip pointer); OUT: Luc Mbah a Moute (Left knee surgery)

Lakers: QUESTIONABLE: Tyson Chandler (flu), Reggie Bullock (stiff neck); OUT: Kyle Kuzma (Left foot peroneal tendinitis), Lonzo Ball (Left ankle sprain), Josh Hart (Right knee debridement procedure), Brandon Ingram (Thoracic outlet decompression surgery, right arm), LeBron James, (Sore left groin).

THE BIG PICTURE:

The Clippers (47-32) and Lakers (35-44) both enter Friday’s match-up fresh off demeaning losses. The Clippers were outplayed from tip-off to final buzzer on Wednesday, falling 135-103 to the Houston Rockets. It was the team’s worst home loss of the season. On Thursday, the depleted Lakers were trounced by the Golden State Warriors in a nearly unwatchable game, 108-90.

With a playoff berth no longer possible for the Lakers, they find themselves playing primarily for draft position, and perhaps in the role of spoiler. The Clippers have a lot at stake as they wrap up the regular season. Each of their remaining games could have significant playoff implications.

THE ANTAGONIST:

Injuries have plagued the Lakers in recent weeks, with LeBron James, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball all out of commission. They have logged an embarrassing 7-15 record since the All-Star break. Not much to say about the squad, the coaching or the leadership. Nothing appears to be working for the purple and gold at this point in time. This will be the sixth consecutive year the Lakers have failed to reach the post-season.

NOTES:

We Rule LA: The Clippers have won 23 of their last 27 matchups with the Lakers, including 2 of 3 earlier this season. The Clippers have outscored the Lakers by an average of 12.8 points per game in that span, the highest differential of any team against an in-conference opponent since 2012-13. Is there really any debate as to who rules LA at this point?

Back on Track: In March the Clippers logged the NBA’s best record (13-2) and led the NBA in both offensive rating (116.4 points/100) and three-point percentage (41.7%). April has not started off well with Wednesday’s loss to the Rockets, but a win over the Lakers should get them right back on track.

Hot Shots: Among qualifying players, Shai Gilgeous- Alexander (59.4%) ranked first, Landry Shamet (45.7%) ranked 12th, and Danilo Gallinari (45.3%) ranked 18th in three-point percentage in the month of March. If the Clippers can keep up the white hot shooting from long, they should have no problem putting the Lakers away early.

Speaking of SGA: In addition to being deadly from deep in March, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10+ points in a career-best 10 straight games in the month (3/11 - 3/30). Over that span, he averaged 15.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three-point range. He logged his first career double-double on March 17th against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 14 points to go along with a career-high 10 assists. Shai is peaking at just the right time, and it has been wonderful to watch him develop.

It’s Always Awkward Facing the Ex: Friday’s contest will be the second time former Lakers’ center Ivica Zubac will face his old squad. Zubac recently encouraged fans to check out Clippers’ games if they wanted to see “good basketball” in Los Angeles, a comment that the media was more than happy to run with leading up to this match up. The Lakers may take issue with the perceive slight, so Zu better arrive to Staples ready to play. Recent performances suggest he will: the 22 year old big man has been contributing nicely on both ends of the floor. Zubac brought needed rim presence to the franchise, is a serious upgrade on the team’s ability to defend the pick and roll, and has been making decent offensive contributions. He’s scored 14 points in each of the team’s last two games; his first consecutive double-figure scoring efforts as a Clipper.

Patrick Beverley - Spirit Animal: If the Houston loss taught us anything, it is that Patrick Beverley is the most important player on the roster this year. While Beverley sat out Wednesday’s game with a hip pointer, the rest of the team seemed off and out of sorts. Beverley may also miss Friday’s contest, but against the short-handed Lakers, his absence may not be as dramatically felt.

PREDICTION:

Barring an epic meltdown, this should register as the Clipper’s 48th win this season.