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Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: A star-studded matchup without stars

Once the premier matchup of the season, the Lakers and Clippers teams that will take the court on Thursday are shells of themselves, beaten down by injuries.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Two years ago, the Lakers and Clippers were seen as two of the top dogs not just in the Western Conference, but the NBA as a whole. When the two sides met in early March of 2020, the Lakers triumph felt like a turning point moment in the season. It was seen as a warning to the rest of the league that the Lakers were becoming a threat.

Obviously, shortly after that game, the world shut down due to COVID and nothing has been the same since. In that sense, it’s fitting that the two teams that line up across from one another on Thursday hardly resemble the ones that played on that fate Sunday in March two years ago.

Injuries have taken their toll on both teams, the Clippers down Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and the Lakers almost certainly being without LeBron James, who was listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Blazers after not practicing on Tuesday.

The supporting casts have changed rather dramatically over the last two years as well with key players like Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope departing in various trades and free agency signings.

The circumstances around the teams have changed, too. No longer is this a meeting of two title contenders, but instead two teams vying for the best seed in a play-in game. Without George, Leonard, James and Anthony Davis for much of the season, the two teams have struggled with players forced into roles too large for them.

Because of those play-in game implications, this contest will have meaning on Thursday. But it’s a far cry from where these two teams were two years ago, fighting atop the NBA with the rest of the league watching.

Notes and Updates:

  • LeBron James did not take part in the Lakers shootaround on Wednesday morning, further indication that he’s not likely to be back anytime in the near future.
  • Kendrick Nunn is again starting on-court workouts again as he begins to move toward a debut once more.
  • Prior to tonight’s games on TNT, the reserves for the NBA All-Star Game will be announced.

The Lakers and Clippers will tip-off at 7:30 PT this evening with the game being televised on TNT.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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