A reversal of fortune has bloomed in Los Angeles, with the Lakers looking up the standings at the 50-win Clippers.
This year’s version of the Clippers became the first squad in franchise history to post 50 wins, while the 40-36 Lakers hold a slim half game lead for the final playoff spot in the West.
A rash of injuries and poor defense has kept the Lakers in check for much of the season, but they can keep their postseason dreams alive as they meet the Clippers Sunday afternoon at Staples Center Sunday afternoon.
Kobe Bryant netted 24 points and nine assists and Pau Gasol finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in a huge 86-84 win for the Lakers Friday that staved off the Utah Jazz. Dwight Howard was one point shy of his 46th double-double of the season, with nine points and 10 rebounds.
It was the third time in the last 13 games the 24th ranked Laker defense held an opponent under 90 points.
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The Clippers celebrated their 50th win of the season with five days of rest after dropping the Phoenix Suns 126-101 on Wednesday.
Center DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Chris Paul recorded 15 points, 12 assists, and four steals. Team-leading scorer Blake Griffin played a limited role, but notched seven assists with nine points.
It was Jordan’s first 20-point game since November, and third overall of the season.
Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe also chipped in 17 points, and his offense will be needed against the Lakers with Chauncey Billups ruled out with a groin injury.
The Lakers may have to play on without veteran Steve Nash for the third straight game. Nash is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
The game tips-off 3:30 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast by ABC.
Betting Odds: The Clippers are favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 202 points
Prediction: Bledsoe and Paul should have strong games, as will Bryant. The Lakers need Gasol and Howard to control the boards, and troll for offensive rebounds. If Griffin can continue to find the open man like he has of late, the Clippers should continue their franchise-record pace.
Predicted Score: Clippers 104, Lakers 102