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Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: Can L.A. prove defense is the best offense?

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The Lakers will have to stay engaged on defense if they want to upset the scrappy Clippers.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Following a gut-wrenching loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers will have to regroup and get ready to take on their cross-stadium rivals, the L.A. Clippers, Friday at Staples Center.

Despite not having a single All-Star on their roster, the Clippers have been one of the more impressive teams in the Western Conference this season. Through 34 games, the Clippers are 20-14, good enough for the No. 4 seed in the West and only 1.5 games back of the conference’s top spot.

They’ve been able to maintain their surprisingly hot start by posting the fifth-best offense in the league (112.1 points per 100 possessions). Comparatively, the Lakers are ranked 17th in the NBA in offensive rating (108.8).

Defensively, however, the Clippers have been inconsistent. They’re ranked 23rd in defensive rating (110.8) and are in the bottom-five opponent points in the paint (52.2), opponent fast break points (15.3) and opponent second chance points (15.1).

If the Lakers want to bounce back on Friday, it’s going to have to be with their top-10 defense, which is currently allowing 106.7 points per 100 possessions.

Brandon Ingram will have to be especially engaged against the Clippers, as they have two players at the forward spots that can go off for 20-plus points on any given night in Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari.

The bench will also be a big factor in Friday’s matchup, which could be the reason the Lakers lose. The Clippers have two solid players anchoring their bench unit in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, who are both legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidates. That’s not to mention Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley, who can be elite defenders when they want to be.

Meanwhile, Lakers head coach Luke Walton is limited to the healthy bodies he has on the bench, which is currently headlined by Lance Stephenson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tyson Chandler. You’ll notice there isn’t a single point guard among those players and there won’t be for a little while.

Unless the Lakers get a vintage game from “Make ‘em Dance Lance”, they could be in for another rough night, something they can’t afford with just one game separating the No. 5 and No. 8 seed. Let’s hope they can pull this one out.

Tip-off for tonight’s game is 7:30 PM PST and can be watched locally on both Spectrum SportsNet and Fox Sports West, as well as nationally on NBAtv.

All stats are courtesy of stats.nba.com. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.