AD sets a pick on Kawai for LeBron

Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Clippers 1-7-24

The Lakers (17-19) host a third straight home game as they attempt to snap a 4-game losing streak, which will be a challenge against a surging Clippers team (22-12) that has won an NBA-best five games in a row. The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

On Dec. 7, the Lakers won the In-Season Tournament Semifinal in Las Vegas over New Orleans to improve to 14-9 on the season, before dispatching Indiana in the Final, a game that didn’t count towards their record.

But since then, they’ve won only three games, against nine losses, to fall to 17-19, matching their early-season 3-5 mark in terms of games under .500. The Lakers have changed their starting lineup multiple times during that stretch, using six different groups:

Games 24, 27, 28: Russell, Prince, Reddish, James, Davis
Games 25, 29: Russell, Prince, Reddish, Hachimura, Davis
Game 26: Reaves, Christie, Prince, James, Hayes
Games 30, 31, 33: James, Prince, Reddish, Vanderbilt, Davis
Games 32, 34: James, Prince, Hachimura, Vanderbilt, Davis
Games 35, 36: Reaves, Prince, Reddish, James, Davis

The Clippers, meanwhile, were 10-10 on Dec. 7. But since then, they’ve gone 12-2, with their only losses coming at OKC, and vs. Boston, when Kawhi Leonard was out. They’ve used one primary lineup for much of that time: James Harden, Terrance Mann, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Ivica Zubac. And when George missed two games, and Leonard four, Amir Coffee started for both guys.

That primary starting lineup has played 271 minutes together, and is a +17.6 in that time.

The most-used Lakers group – Russell, Prince, Reddish, LeBron, AD – has played 150 minutes together, and is +1.0.

The Lakers have been getting crushed from the 3-point line of late, with opponent’s consistently hitting perimeter jumpers, including a Memphis team that was last in the NBA in terms of 3-point percentage (33.8%), but drilled 23 of 45.

“We decided to go one through five red, try to keep the ball in front of us, and they hit some deep ones, they hit some ones that were contested,” said Darvin Ham, as the Lakers mostly went under screens and allowed threes. “You have to be more aggressive, but take your hat off to them, they shot the hell out of the ball. Some guys that came in with lower percentages, they knocked them down. It seems to be the pattern. People are stepping their game up when they come in our building, and we gotta be willing to meet force with force.”

“It started with Marcus Smart … we followed the game plan,” said Anthony Davis. “He made shots, and that trickled down to their team. We didn’t make enough plays especially in the end … but when teams make 23 threes, it’s tough to beat a team like that.”

In December, opponents shot 41.1% from three, after hitting 36.1% in November. In the last 10 games, the number is 40.7%.

“We gotta do better as players to affect them to miss shots,” said Austin Reaves. “We have to take it upon ourselves to do better.”

After the loss against Memphis, when the Lakers started the game really well and led by as many as 13 before giving up a barrage of threes in a disappointing loss, Anthony Davis looked at the big picture.

“Gotta stay confident, stay together,” he explained. “It’s been a tough stretch for us. We’re trending in the wrong direction right now, and the last thing we need, especially when guys are out, is to separate and fall apart. We gotta figure it out. We can’t be in our feelings, or complaining. Can’t take anything personal. Individually, everyone in the locker room, coaching staff, we gotta figure out what we can do individually better to make the team better. Then we can come out and flip things around. It has to come from within.”

Meanwhile, after a dominant showing at OKC in which he scored 40 points on 13 of 20 shooting, LeBron’s averaged 22.8 points on 44.7% FG’s in the last five games. Prior to that point, he was scoring 25.7 points per game on 54.4% FG’s. He acknowledged that the Lakers just haven’t been good enough of late, and shared his mindset in trying to lead L.A. on the way back.

“I show up to work, punch my clock every day, stay positive and go out and try to lead on the floor, inspire on the floor,” he said. “That’s what I do.”