The Los Angeles Lakers clinched a spot in the NBA playoffs with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, so their new primary objective for the remainder of the season is locking up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and they have a chance to build on their 5.5-game cushion when they see the No. 2 seed LA Clippers on Sunday.
The Clippers are the only team that have beaten the Lakers twice this season, and they’ve done it in two tries, most recently on Christmas Day. A lot has changed since then.
At the trade deadline, the Clippers traded for Marcus Morris, who’s added versatility to their starting lineup with his 3-point shooting. Then, in the buyout market, the Clippers added veteran point guard Reggie Jackson.
But the Lakers added talent in the buyout market, too, by signing Markieff Morris and Dion Waiters. Plus, they have the motivation of not being able to beat a team this season, and not just any team, but their inner-city rivals.
“We never want to lose to a team all the time,” Anthony Davis said after the game on Friday. “So this game Sunday is another kind of ‘revenge game.’ We feel like we had them both games and kind of let it slip late in the game, especially on Christmas Day. So this will be a test for us, and we’re going to be ready for it.”
The Christmas Day game seems to be one that stings the most for the Lakers. On opening night, they were able to use the excuse that they didn’t have Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma. On Christmas Day, the Clippers were just flat-out better.
The Lakers will go into Sunday’s game with a chip on their shoulder, but ultimately, their goal is to show that they’ve improved from the last time they played.
“We have an opportunity to get better on Sunday,” LeBron James said on Friday. “We know how well they’ve been playing as of late. They’re at full strength, we’re at full strength, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of seeing how we match up with them again.
“The first game, we kind of threw that game out the window. It’s the first game of the season, who were we? Who were they? They had way more returning guys than we did, we were still trying to figure out ourselves. And then the Christmas Day game we didn’t play to our capabilities. We played great in the first half, and then the second half we kind of let it get away from us. We just look forward to seeing if we can continue to play good basketball, win lose or draw.”
The Lakers and Clippers will tip off at 12:30 p.m. on ABC
Notes and Updates
- Dion Waiters will not play against the Lakers tomorrow, per Frank Vogel.
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