Clippers look to bounce back against Lakers
The Los Angeles Clippers hope to benefit from a string of opponents that currently sit in the bottom half of both conference standings. They'll get another shot when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
The Clippers didn't take advantage Monday night and lost 123-118 to the visiting Atlanta Hawks, who have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.
The Clippers still hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings, two games ahead of the Lakers, but coach Doc Rivers said his team needs to arrive with a better mindset than it showed against the Hawks.
"I thought we showed up and just thought we were going to win," Rivers said. "I just go back to what I said at the beginning of the year. We're just not good enough to do that. That's for teams with a 1/8Stephen 3/8 Curry or a 1/8Kevin 3/8 Durant on them, but that's just not us."
The Lakers could be getting their own superstar back against the Clippers.
LeBron James has missed the past 17 games with a strained groin, but has been practicing in full since last weekend and Los Angeles could certainly use James, who leads the Lakers in scoring (27.3), rebounding (8.3) and is second to Rajon Rondo in assists (7.1).
Lakers coach Luke Walton would not commit to playing James against the Clippers, however, telling reporters that he wants to stay cautious.
"We'll see how he feels (Thursday)," Walton said. "We'll take it from there. We'll keep prepping as if he's not going to play, and hope that he's healthy enough to start."
The Lakers have also been without second-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma the past two games. He has been bothered by a sore hip, and team doctors are hoping the rest will get him back to 100 percent. Starting point guard Lonzo Ball also has missed the past four games with a sprained ankle.
"It's next man up, but we'd love to have those guys (back)," Lakers guard Josh Hart told reporters after the loss to Philadelphia.
The Lakers have gone 6-11 since James was injured in a Dec. 25 win against the Golden State Warriors.
One of those losses came against the Clippers on Dec. 28, when Kuzma and Ball combined for 43 points in the 118-107 loss.
The Clippers had just one starter score in double figures in the win, but Lou Williams produced his season high of 36 points off the bench.
The Lakers will be the fourth of five straight opponents for the Clippers who entered Thursday outside a playoff spot.
The Clippers knocked off the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings last weekend, but then lost to the Hawks, who are 12th in the Eastern Conference.
"I just thought (the Hawks) competed harder, and that's unusual for our team," Rivers said. "It's an 82-game season, it happens. It's just no fun when it does happen.
If our guys are honest with themselves, I think they would agree with that."
Whether the Lakers have James back or not, the Clippers need to be ready for any type of lineup.
"We have to be prepared and ready," Clippers forward Tobias Harris said. "It's the NBA, and it's a part of a long season. It's easy to say that now, but at the same time, we go out there and we play and they lace up their shoes just like us."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 30, 2019