Clippers vs Lakers: Back the Clippers in Battle of LA

Michael Arinze breaks down his expert NBA pick and prediction for Clippers vs Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 7.

Clippers vs. Lakers Odds

Clippers Odds -4.5
Lakers Odds +4.5
Moneyline -210 / +175
Over/Under 232.5
Time Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

When the Lakers defeated the Clippers 125-120 on Nov. 1, both teams were 3-2 on the NBA season. Fast forward two months later, and these teams have gone in opposite directions.

Yes, the Lakers (17-19) won the inaugural In-Season Tournament, but was it all worth it if the pursuit derails their championship aspirations?

The Lakers are just 3-10 since the In-Season Tournament ended and have lost four straight games. They won’t get any sympathy from a Clippers team that’s 22-12 and riding high on a five-game winning streak.

It’s no secret that the Clippers have always felt like second-class citizens in Los Angeles. In this preview, I’ll share why the Clippers are always motivated to beat the Lakers.

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Clippers Finding Their Rhythm

Although the Clippers acquired James Harden via trade on Oct. 30, he didn’t debut with his new team until Nov. 6. As a result, Harden didn’t play in the earlier meeting.

The Clippers lost five straight games after Harden started playing for them, and social media began to point the finger at the 15-year pro.

However, it took some time for Harden to gel with his new teammates as he finally got his first win with the Clippers on Nov. 17. Since then, the Clippers have been tied with the Celtics for the best mark in the league at 19-5.

While Harden certainly helps, the key to the Clippers’ success has been the availability of their star forward Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard has played in 30 of the Clippers’ 36 games compared to just 52 games in each of his last two seasons. He looks fully recovered from an ACL injury that even kept him out for an entire season.

Harden gives the Clippers a third superstar alongside Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers also have tremendous depth, with Normal Powell (averaging 13.3 points) and Russell Westbrook (averaging 11.1 points) scoring in double figures.

Overall, the Clippers are incredibly balanced and one of four teams ranked in the top 10 for both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency.

Lakers Defense Struggling

With the Lakers’ In-Season Tournament win, LeBron James added to his long list of accomplishments for the G.O.A.T debate. However, that success hasn’t shown up in the standings.

The Lakers are currently 11th in the Western Conference, which means they wouldn’t even qualify for the Play-In Tournament.

For the Lakers to have any success, their defense has to step up and get back into form. Per TeamRankings, they’re currently 11th in Defensive Efficiency, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions. Over their past three games, however, that number is up to 117.4, ranking 25th during that span.

Offensively, the Lakers are just 23rd in Efficiency. The teams below the Lakers are the Bulls, Wizards, Hornets, Pistons, Spurs and Trail Blazers. That’s not the kind of company you want to have around if you plan to challenge for an NBA title.

They’re in even bigger trouble if they can’t rely on their defense improving from their poor showings of the past week.

Clippers vs. Lakers Prediction

The Lakers are digging themselves a hole which might already be too deep. The Warriors are ahead of the Lakers in the 10th seed, and they’ll likely improve with Draymond Green set to return after being reinstated.

When you look at the Lakers and the other teams ahead of them in the standings, they don’t have a definitive edge.

They can’t seem to find that switch that propelled them to the In-Season Tournament win. Furthermore, there are also reports about a disconnect between the players and head coach Darvin Ham.

If those reports are accurate, then perhaps things have to get even worse for the Lakers before they can get better.

The Clippers don’t need any extra motivation when it comes to playing the Lakers. Our Action Labs database, which dates back to 2005, shows the Clippers are 46-26 straight up against the Lakers over that span.

Before the November loss, the Clippers won 11 straight in the series while covering the spread in 10 of those 11 games.

If the Lakers are dealing with off-the-court issues, then this mountain just got a bit higher to climb. I’ll lay the 4.5 points with the Clippers at PointsBet.

Pick: Clippers -4.5 (-110)