three things to know lakers at clippers 2-28-24

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Clippers 2-28-24

After a few days off, the Lakers (31-28) will try to get back on the winning track when they face off against the Clippers (37-19) on Wednesday night. The game tips off at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup.

Starting with tonight's game against the Clippers, the Lakers play their next 12 games in California and only venture outside of Los Angeles once -- when they travel to Sacramento for a matchup with the Kings on March 13th. Otherwise, the team will get a lot of home cooking and will get a chance to settle into a home-oriented routine.

While the team will get a nice reprieve from travel, however, the list of opponents they will face is quite daunting. Of those 12 games, 10 are against teams currently over .500 and in the top-eight of their respective conferences. Further, five of those 10 games come against teams currently projected to have home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs, including every one of the top-four teams in the West (Wolves, Thunder, Nuggets, Clippers).

In other words, while the Lakers will be able to settle in and get comfortable with their surroundings, they will be facing some of the top teams in the league while doing so.

As the old saying goes, iron sharpens iron. And, if the Lakers are going to show that they're capable of making a push in the standings in order to get into the playoffs in the first place, they will need to do so against some of the same teams they would have to beat once there if they hope to follow up on their run to the Western Conference Finals last season with an even extended push this season.

The Lakers went into the All-Star break winning six of their previous seven games and playing in a great rhythm offensively, racking up high assist totals and shooting the ball exceptionally well from behind the arc. In the team's three games coming out of the break they've not been in the same groove, losing two of their three games and seeing a decline if their effectiveness offensively.

Of course, the sample is small and three games does not necessarily portend some shift in overall effectiveness that should inspire major concerns. That said, the Lakers are down in assists, down in three-point shooting, and eye-test reveals a general decline in rhythm that cannot be overlooked as nothing at all.

One way to help the Lakers get back on track offensively is to feature Anthony Davis more and be proactive about getting him the ball. For the season, the Lakers are averaging 1.12 points per play on AD post-up possessions where he either shoots the ball or his direct pass leads to a shot attempt. Further, the Lakers are averaging 1.14 points per play on possessions where AD takes a shot attempt as the roll-man in the pick-and-roll the 7th best number in the league of players who tally three such possessions a game.

In the Lakers most recent loss to the Suns, Davis took just four total shots in the 1st half, and only two in the first quarter when Phoenix jumped out to a 20-point lead to seize control of the game. That hole was too deep for the Lakers to ever fully climb out of, but their best chances came in the 2nd half when Davis became much more involved offensively in both the pick-and-roll, and via post ups. Looking for him early and often, even against teams with stout defensive bigs, will often lead to the types of good looks that can fuel the Lakers attack on that side of the ball.

On November 30th the Clippers lost to the Warriors and their record fell to 8-10 on the season and they were 11th in the West. Then, from December 2nd through February 5th, they proceed to play 31 games and won 27 of them, catapulting all the way up to a 35 and 14 record and 3rd in the conference standings. That push established them as a contender and set them up for home court in the playoffs.

That said, since that blistering run they are just 3-4 in their last seven games, with all four losses coming by double figures. Further, in their last 10 games they have the NBA's 28th ranked defense (119.3) and have not played to the level they are surely capable of.

Some of this drop off is due to the natural ebbs and flows of a long NBA season. Of late, they've also been a bit banged up as Paul George missed their last game and will continue to be out vs. the Lakers in this game. Ivica Zubac is also listed as questionable with an illness, a game-day designation which could impact his status tonight.

All of this is to say, the Clippers have not been playing their best basketball of late and dealing with some player health challenges vs. the Lakers in this game. Norman Powell is slated to start for Paul George and, if Zubac is limited or unable to go, the Clippers will likely lean into Daniel Theis and Mason Plumlee more. The Lakers, no stranger to health issues themselves, could have Cam Reddish back in the lineup tonight after missing the team's last 14 games with knee swelling. The team could certainly use his defense, particularly if he's moving as well as he was earlier in the season when he was among the league leaders in steals and deflections.

Of course, even with all those injury questions, this game will almost certainly come back to how the team's stars play and which group can carry their team the furthest. The last time these teams matched up, Kawhi Leonard had a big offensive game on a night in which LeBron did not play. If LeBron can have an impact defensively vs. Leonard, it would be just as -- if not more -- important than the load he carries for the Lakers offense.

Further, if AD can establish a rhythm early offensively while also protecting the paint, it could allow his teammates to better pressure on the perimeter and impact James Harden's offensive attack. None of this comes easy, of course. But, then again, it never does when these teams match up and the energy in the building is very high and inspires great efforts from both sides.