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Lakers at Clippers Preview: Latest edition of the cross-hall 'rivalry'

The Lakers have been in some close games recently, but do they have enough to top their Staples Center co-tenants?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The year 2015 is off to an inauspicious start for your Los Angeles Lakers, going 1-2 over the last three games during this new year. Making those two losses even more painful is that they were by a total of just seven points to two teams in the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers who are among the best in the league, as well as being numbers one and two in the Western Conference Standings. If this close margin of defeat seems to offer hope, however, one merely needs to look at the fact that it took closing seconds hook shot and fourth quarter outburst from Kobe Bryant to secure a one-point victory over the lowly Indiana Pacers.

Tonight's Lakers matchup features a Battle for Los Angeles in name only, as the Los Angeles Clippers have far surpassed the Lakers in on-court results in recent seasons, while the battle for the hearts and minds of local fans still has the purple and gold on the top of the mountain. It was the Lakers titles that won them so many fans, and Blake Griffin was quick to point out to ESPN that "Kobe's got his championships and he's had an unbelievable career but you take a look at the rest of the roster and you take a look at who's been there. It's not like our guys have been here for the past 30 years either and had all this history."

He is correct in this assertion, Bryant is the only on-court link to past championships for LA, and this Clippers team is considerably better than most who have come before it in that organizations history. This year's Clippers rank third in the league in Offensive Rating and an average 16th in Defensive Rating for the 4th best NetRtg in the league, and have managed to avoid attention only because of the overall strength of the Western Conference. This is a very good Clippers team, especially when compared to a Lakers team that ranks 16th, 29th, and 27th in those categories respectively.

Could Bryant and company pull out a surprise win as the underdog anyway? Anything is possible, but the Lakers certainly cannot let Griffin get off for the 39 points he had the last time these two teams met, which is the sixth-highest scoring game of his career. That will be easier said then done, as the Clippers superstar frontcourt player is on a scoring tear this season, putting up six of the top ten highest scoring games of his career this season (according to Statmuse). The Lakers had a fairly even shot distribution in that Halloween game against the Clippers, as opposed to the Kobe chuck-fest the offense eventually devolved into for a while, and Jeremy Lin had one of his better games this season against the Clippers, scoring 17 points (7-13 shooting, 3-6 on three pointers) and dishing 9 assists, while Jordan Hill (23 points on 10-15 shooting) contributed some scoring as well.

The Lakers were outscored 32-21 in the fourth quarter of that game in a 7 point loss, so Los Angeles will have to do a better job of locking down on defense late if they want to escape with a victory. With the hit that the injury to Wesley Johnson does to the Lakers' wing depth, they will have to be careful to not let sixth man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford feast against their reserve wings. The Lakers may be helped by not playing in their pajamas sleeved Hollywood Nights Jerseys, but it would take something unexpected for the purple and gold to get a victory here.

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Station: TWCSN

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