TUNE-IN: Clippers vs. Lakers (minus LeBron James) for first time in regular season (7p, Prime Ticket)
Pretty big basketball game going on tonight in Los Angeles, in case you haven’t heard!
The two squared off one during the preseason, a 103-87 Clippers victory.
Yes, it’s true, LeBron James will not play, missing his second straight game with a groin injury. He hasn’t sat out back-to-back games since the final two of the 2016-17 regular season.
In King James’ place, the talented trio of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball should be a great test for the ever-improving defense of the Clippers, led by Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley and Montrezl Harrell.
Side note: The Lakers have lost 21 of the past 24 games against the Clippers.
And, the Clippers have scored at least 125 points in each of their past five games to move to No. 3 in the NBA in scoring at 115.9 points a game.
BOOST FROM BENCH
Look at the records of both teams.
The Clippers are holding their own in the battle for LA.
A key to their success, along with defense, has been bench production … led by reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams.
The Clippers lead the NBA in bench scoring at 51.8 points a game, and the reserves put up 57 in a 127-118 win against the visiting Kings on Wednesday.
Williams is third on the team in scoring (17.6) and Harrell is fourth (15.5), making the Clippers the only team with two players averaging at least 15 points off the bench this season.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers has been especially impressed by Harrell, an undersized power forward and a 2015 second-round pick of the Houston Rockets. He and Williams were among the players traded to the Clippers 18 months ago in exchange for Chris Paul.
Rivers called Harrell “relentless.”
“His energy and his toughness, he knows his niche with each group,” Rivers said. “When he plays with the second group, he knows exactly how to play with those guys. He has kind of figured it out; it is nice.”
Remember when Lonzo Ball’s dad, LaVar, called out Patrick Beverley after Lonzo Ball’s first game vs. the Clippers as the Lakers new point guard?
Here’s a refresher.
Beverley hounded Ball in his rookie debut last season. Ball, who dealt with leg cramps on Thursday night, could be even more vulnerable against Beverley, who has been contributing much more than just getting in the head of the opposition this season, Rivers said.
“Beverley should get more credit. He has been doing a lot of little things,” Rivers said. “When he goes on the floor there is a plus, with his defensive energy, and he is an instigator. He just does a lot of little winning things that are not on the stats sheet, but he is doing a lot for our team in helping us win games.”
Beverley’s greatest strengths are his defense and his mental toughness. He gets into opponents heads, and under their skin. Just ask Stephen Curry.
— The Sports XChange contributed to this report