The Lakers and the Clippers are neck-and-neck in the Western Conference’s standings. Both teams are expected to make a Finals appearance or at the very least an extremely deep playoff run.
The Clippers have been performing relatively well prior to their last two upsets. Their games against the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets served as unexpected losses considering they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers just days before.
Key stars Serge Ibaka (back) and Patrick Beverly (knee) will continue to be unavailable for the Clippers. The two have not played for three weeks and have no expected date of return yet.
Fortunately, Rajon Rondo is set to make his debut after the Clippers acquired him from Atlanta in exchange for Lou Williams on the trade deadline. While his current averages may not be too impressive at 3.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, the 16-year veteran and former Lakers champion has vital playoff experience that can help the Clippers make deeper postseason runs.
Starting forward Paul George recently expressed concern about his bone edema injury that has caused a dip in his numbers. Since the All-Star break, George has been shooting at 39.2 percent compared to his 49.9 percent before it. Even his 3-point shooting percentage decreased from 45.0 to 33.3.
George mentioned that he is fit to play even if his performance says otherwise. This is a dangerous situation considering that there are only six weeks left before the playoffs and Kawhi Leonard will need all the help he can get if they want to make it all the way to the Finals.
The Lakers have also had their own difficulties dealing with the health of their superstars.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James are still out of the roster as they focus on recovering from their respective injuries. The Lakers have struggled to get a hang of playing without their main stars, and nobody can seem to fill the extremely big shoes that the two have left.
Since James’ departure, the Lakers have won only three of their last seven games. While they are still very much in playoff contention despite their recent slide, the Lakers still need to make a strong push to stay in the top 4.
Both LA teams need to keep an eye out for the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers who are inching closer. The four teams only have about a game or two separating them, and six weeks of play are more than enough to shuffle the rankings before the next round.