PREVIEW: Clippers host Lakers in must-win matchup (7p, Prime Ticket)
LOS ANGELES -- The second matchup of the season between Los Angeles' NBA rivals will have far less hype than the original.
When the Clippers host to the Lakers on Monday night at Staples Center neither team will be sitting in the top eight spots of the Western Conference, and both will still be trying to put together the pieces.
The last time they met was the season opener for both, with the Clippers thinking positively thanks to a retooled roster and a defensive minded squad, and the Lakers excited to unveil rookie point guard Lonzo Ball.
Now, some five weeks after the Clippers started the season with a 108-92 victory, the search for consistency continues.
The Clippers (7-11) have been wracked with injuries, having already lost guard Patrick Beverley for the season following knee surgery. And the Lakers (8-11) are still trying to position Ball for a continued run of success.
Not only are the Clippers without Beverley, but they also are missing two other key players, forward Danilo Gallinari (hip) and guard Milos Teodosic (foot). Gallinari figures to be out another week to 10 days, while Teodosic might not be back until just before January.
The Clippers enter the Monday game on a mini two-game win streak, having just defeated the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks. But that was preceded by a nine-game losing streak in which they allowed an average of 110.3 points per game.
"We'll take wins how you we can get them," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who scored a season-high 33 points and hit the winning shot with 3.2 seconds left in a 97-95 victory at Sacramento on Saturday. "And I would say even if we hadn't lost nine straight, it's the NBA, if you have a chance to win at the end, you take it. We played how we should play, and if that wasn't a good lesson for us, I don't know what will (be)."
As Ball's roller-coaster ride has continued, so has the Lakers' season.
Ball already has two triple-doubles in his team's first 19 games, evidence of his multi-dimensional abilities. However, he is shooting just 31.5 percent from the field and a woeful 25 percent from 3-point range.
"You get little opportunities here and there and you grow from those," Lakers coach Luke Walton said regarding to Ball. "You have vets that kind of take you under their wing and show you how it's done at this level, and it's more of a patient process."
The Lakers should be well rested Monday, having last played Wednesday. However, they were defeated 113-102 by the same Sacramento team that the Clippers upended Saturday. Before that loss, they won consecutive home games against the Denver Nuggets and Chicago Bulls.
Just when it seemed as if they were improving, the Lakers committed 17 turnovers against Sacramento. On defense, the Lakers watched the Kings score 31 points in the first quarter and 37 in the fourth, when Sacramento shot 15 of 19 from the field.
"We know there's going to be turnovers," Walton said. "I think our guys are good enough that those numbers should start coming down now."
The return of Larry Nance Jr. should help the Lakers' overall level of play. Nance has been out since Nov. 2 with a broken left hand, but he is targeting a return for the Monday game despite sustaining a cut over his eye. The facial injury occurred during a particularly physical practice Sunday.