The Los Angeles Clippers (25-8) will be squaring off against the Los Angeles Lakers (15-16) on Friday, January 4th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Coverage will begin on ESPN at 10:30 p.m. (ET) but can be watched online at ESPN 3. The matchup is also being livestreamed.
The Los Angeles Clippers have now lost two games in a row after pulling off a season best 17 game win streak. The 17 straight wins were the longest such streak in the NBA since Boston won 19 in a row during the 2008-2009 season.
The Clippers cashed in season low shooting percentages in their recent two game skid, with both losses coming on the road. Meanwhile they still carry a 10 game home winning streak and look to make that 11 straight when they return to the Staples Center tonight to face off against their inner-city rivals.
For the Lakers the season has been all about inconsistency. They, like the Clippers, pulled off a season best 5-game win streak, only to follow that up by losing two out of their last three. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night. Kobe Bryant sounded off in frustration after the loss, calling the Lakers “old and slow”.
The Lakers feel they have turned a corner after a slow start to the year, and the return of point guard Steve Nash may be just what the doctor ordered. Despite their sub .500 record, the Lakers are still considered title contenders. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is still making adjustments as the players grow more accustomed to his up-tempo offensive system.
The Clippers will be looking to extend an already comfortable 9 game lead over the Lakers in the Southwest Division, but have had trouble beating the Lakers in the Staples Center. The Lakers have won 5 of the last 7 as the home team in this matchup, something the Clippers will need to change if they want to take the next step toward elite status.
What to Watch For:
Forward Caron Butler will be returning to action tonight after missing Wednesdays tilt against at Golden State due to personal reasons. Butler has been a menace from behind the arc against the Lakers, making 11 treys while shooting nearly 50 percent from three in the last four matchups.
Point Guard Steve Nash will need to step up his game tonight, especially on defense. Clippers point guard Chris Paul has combined for 40 points and 31 assist in the past two meetings. If Paul gets hot early, the Lakers may find themselves taking another step back in the Southwest Division.
Kobe Bryant continues to have a terrific season, and his 30.3 points per game is good for tops in the league. Bryant has found comfort in the Lakers new offensive rotation with his recent switch to small forward. Bryant will be gunning for another big outing against the Clippers after scoring 40 and shooting 14 of 23 against them in November. Bryant has averaged 34.8 points while maintaining a 54.6 percent from the floor in his last five against the Clippers.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 108, Los Angeles Clippers 101