Contribution by committee. Marcus Morris Sr. in the clutch. Elite coaching from Ty Lue and his staff. Somehow, someway, the Clippers find themselves on a four game win streak for the third time this season, and the first time in two and a half months.
The fact that they’re doing this all without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and newest addition Norman Powell is all the more impressive. And on Thursday, they have the opportunity to prove just how formidable and tenacious they still can be as they host a rematch with their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
When: Friday, February 25 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: BSSW-DALBSSC; KEGL/KFZOKLAC/KWKW-LAC
Opposing perspective: Silver Screen and Roll
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Lebron James, Stanley Johnson, Dwight Howard
Clippers: Norman Powell, Jay Scrubb, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Lakers: Avery Bradley — QUESTIONABLE; Anthony Davis, Kendrick Nunn— OUT
If the Clippers’ momentum were a train, Ivica Zubac might just be its conductor. After seasons of showing flashes of his potential domination, Zubac finally stringed together two such performances, with back-to-back games where he tallied 14 points, 15 rebounds, and six blocks and 22 points and 12 rebounds, respectively.
Over this recent four game streak, the Clippers are ranked first in the league in terms of defensive rating, partly to the credit of Zubac. Granted, three of those four wins came against the 15-46 Rockets, but even if we include the four games before that (which includes games against the Warriors, Suns, and Mavericks), the Clippers still possess a 104.8 defensive rating, good for best in the league in that stretch.
The Lakers, on the other hand, possess a league-worst 99.7 offensive rating over their recent three-game skid. If we analyze their last eight games, that number rises to 107.7, which ranks just fifth from the bottom.
That’s not to say that this game will be easy. Not by a long shot. The Lakers still have a formidable cast of proven veterans. They’re still a top five team in terms of Pace. And most notably, they still have Lebron James.
James, who leads the Lakers in four of the five most obvious counting stats (Russell Westbrook leads the Lakers in assists, with 7.3 a game, while James leads them in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks) has the ability to single-handedly make any game interesting. His media antics and front office manipulation aside, when he turns it on, his greatness is undeniable.
Luckily, the Clippers also seem to love playing him and the Lakers. Having won their last seven matchups, the Clippers come into the stadium tonight looking for another regular season series sweep over the other LA team. Even with three of the four biggest names being on the injury roster, this promises a marquee basketball matchup. Here’s hoping the Clippers can take home another one.