On Friday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers meet in another battle for LA, but this particular installment is noticeably different. For starters, neither Kobe Bryant nor Chris Paul will be available to play due to serious injuries that have both superstars sidelined.
Bryant is recovering from a fracture in his knee, and Paul is out due to a shoulder injury. Even without the two biggest stars in the rivalry, the Lakers and Clippers produce electricity every time they meet on the hardwood.
On opening night, the Lakers came out and shocked the world.
Without Bryant, the heavily favored Clippers were beaten 116-103 by a group of relatively unknown players. The most impressive aspect of that victory was that the Clippers led with 10 minutes to play in the game, but the Lakers’ bench, led by Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar, carried the home team to a convincing win.
On Friday, both Farmar (torn hamstring) and Henry (knee injury) will be dressed in suits and watching from the sidelines. In kind, the Clippers have been without J.J. Reddick for over a month due to a fracture in his right hand.
Reddick, who scored 13 points in 34 minutes when these teams last met, expects to make his return to the court on Friday night. If given the all-clear, he should go directly into the Clippers’ starting lineup.
With Paul recently going down and Reddick coming back in, the Clippers are ripe for the picking.
Whereas the Clippers are vulnerable, the Lakers have been deplorable. Constant turnovers lead to fast breaks, and lack of defensive fortitude leads to losses. The Lakers have plenty of those. The purple and gold have lost nine of the last 10 games. On the season, Mike D’Antoni’s guys have 22 losses in 36 games. One does not need a background in sports to understand 14 wins in 36 games is not a good record.
Entering Friday night, the Lakers are 2.5 games ahead of last place in the Western Conference.
In contrast, the Clippers are 4.0 games back of first place. Without a doubt, the Clippers will be the favorites on Friday night, and that standing is not due to the red, white and blue colored paint on the floor.
No “CP3?” No “Black Mamba?” No problem.
Regardless of the odds, the crowd at Staples Center promises to be split and spirited. The blue, purple, red, gold and white all mix to generate a constant buzz in the building. In recent Clippers home games, the atmosphere has been uproarious, confrontational and raucous.
This is the battle for Los Angeles, after all.
Regardless of form, this one means something. The Lakers and Clippers both have fans in the stands, on the sidewalks, in the streets, on the freeways, in the clubs and on the beaches.
Friday night in downtown Los Angeles, the Lakers and Clippers battle for the city.