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Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: Who’s going to step up in LeBron James’ absence?

The only chance the Lakers have to beat the Clippers is if everyone in the rotation contributes in the scoring department

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Lakers will face their hallway counterparts, the Clippers, on Tuesday for the second time in two weeks. This time, it’ll be considered a road game for the purple and gold.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. L.A. Clippers

When: 7 p.m. PT, Jan. 23

Where: Arena

Watch: TNT

This Lakers season has had a wild mix of fun wins and painful losses and two of the former have come at the expense of the Clippers. I don’t know about you but, as a Lakers fan, the last two victories against the other LA team have felt really sweet, especially since the purple and gold were on an 11-game losing streak to the Clippers before they finally broke it last November.

Now looking to nab their third straight victory against the Clippers on Tuesday, the Lakers will try to do that without LeBron James — who will be sitting out due to an ankle injury. It’s unclear whether James will be nursing this injury for a while or not but there’s no sugarcoating the fact that this game just got tougher than it already was supposed to be without the 39-year-old superstar. This will be only the fourth game that James will miss this season.

At the very least, James’ absence will give way for the other role players to step up. The last time James sat in the Lakers’ last road game against the Utah Jazz, it was Rui Hachimura who took his spot and scored 17 points. It was also the same game that D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves combined for 58 points but, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to beat a Jazz team that was in the middle of a hot stretch at that time.

Regardless, this Lakers team has proven that they can make up for James’ absence just as long as everyone in the rotation contributes. The purple and gold should capitalize on the absence of Ivica Zubac, who will be out for the foreseeable future because of a right calf injury. This should be another one of those games where Anthony Davis takes control of the frontcourt and it’ll be up to the rest of the team to help him in the scoring department.

Now is the time for Russell — who is averaging 27.2 points on 54% 3-point shooting in his last five games — to continue his hot streak. All eyes will be on the point guard not just because he finds himself in an incredible groove right now but since his name has been featured in a couple of trade-related headlines as of late.

And speaking of the scoring department, that’s exactly what this Clippers team excels in. They’re currently ranked sixth in the league in offense, led by Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Norman Powell, who always just seems to play well against the Lakers.

Thankfully, the Lakers’ best defenders — Davis, Jarred Vanderbilt, Cam Reddish and Hachimura — are available, so that’s enough length and size to at least contain this Clipper team. The Lakers’ best chance to win this game will depend on whether or not they can keep up with the Clippers’ ability to score.

It’s going to be an absolute tough challenge, but one that’s not impossible to achieve. It’ll be nice to get another surprising, feel-good victory against a Clipper team that has won eight out of its last ten games. Who knows? Maybe winning this game will help ease the anxious vibes in the locker room ahead of the impending trade deadline.

Let’s see who steps up in James’ absence on Tuesday as the purple and gold look to move a step closer to sweeping the Clippers in the regular season this year.

Notes and Updates:

  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy) and Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis) are listed as probable. As mentioned above, LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) will not be in uniform as well as Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery).
  • As for the Clippers, Ivica Zubac (right calf strain) and Moussa Diabate (right hand fracture) are out.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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