Kyle Kuzma layup vs Clippers

Lakers vs. Clippers, Three Things to Know: May 6, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (37-28) face the Clippers (44-22) at Staples Center for a “road” game on Thursday evening. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on TNT, with the pre and postgame shows on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

After a rough couple of weeks in which the Lakers lost six of seven games, and their typical hard-nosed defense was mostly absent, they found their footing on that side of the floor to hold Denver to 89 points in a hard-fought 4-point victory. Anthony Davis had his best game since returning on April 22, looking much more like himself on D all night, and sealing the game with a block of 3-pointer in the final seconds. Helping him out were some of the usual suspects like Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, while veteran subs Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews were both huge off the bench. Gasol and Matthews, who aren’t in the every-night rotation, stood out on defense while combining to go 5 for 6 from 3 on the other end.

Matthews provides a steady defensive option compared to newcomer Ben McLemore, particularly if he’s hitting from distance, while Gasol was especially useful against Denver due to Nikola Jokic, against whom he’s battled many times. Frank Vogel continues to say that he’ll need everybody as the Lakers make their push into the postseason, and his two vets stated their case for more PT on the court, while subsequently saying the right things afterwards, focusing on the team rather than their own contributions.

Frank Vogel said after Wednesday’s practice that LeBron James would miss at least Thursday’s game against the Clippers as he continues to deal with soreness in his ankle from the injury suffered on March 20 vs. Atlanta. The Lakers have managed to win nine games against 13 losses without LeBron, thanks mostly to their ability to continue to play defense.

The larger challenge in LeBron’s absence is a lack of playmaking, which has been made even more difficult with Dennis Schroder out (health and safety protocol). That leaves Alex Caruso, who will likely start, and Talen Horton-Tucker to lead offensive units from the perimeter, but THT is a question mark to play due to a right calf strain. As such, Vogel may opt to run more offense through AD on the perimeter, and perhaps call upon Gasol to make plays from the top of the key.

The Clippers, meanwhile, had everybody but Serge Ibaka on the court in their win against Toronto on Tuesday, which snapped a 3-game losing streak in which Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley both missed action.

As things sit heading into Thursday nights’ game, the Clippers are the No. 4 seed, and the Lakers No. 6, which would keep them on opposite sides of the playoff bracket, assuring a Conference Finals meeting at the earliest. The Clippers have never made it that far in their history, while the Lakers would be trying to repeat their feat of last season in advancing to face Denver, whom they beat 4-1 to go to the Finals.

And yet, the current seedings are pretty arbitrary, as the Clippers could easily surpass Denver to become the No. 3 seed, and the Lakers could either move up to No. 5, or down to No. 7. Therefore, the two L.A. teams could meet in Round 1 as the 4th and 5th seeds, or the 3rd and 6th seeds, depending upon what happens with DEN, DAL, and POR. So … stay tuned! These standings could, and will, shift often before the season finale on May 16.


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