After 31 games, the Lakers (15-16) are still suffering through the same struggles they've been having the entire season. They looked to have answered a lot of their problems after posting their season-best streak of 6 wins to end the month of December, but they came crashing right back down with one of their most pitiful games against the 76ers at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant sees the team's collective age as their biggest challenge to adjust to while Steve Nash can't help but feel that time is starting to be a factor in terms of their overall improvement while winning enough games to qualify for a playoff spot this year.
But it's really no secret that the Lakers are finding a tough time getting over the hump because they're allowing their situation with having a new coach, a new system and their health dictate the way they give their effort and play the game. In other words, they're more willing to give excuses rather than doing something about their poor performance as a team.
And if they come out flat and unprepared against the Clippers (25-8) tonight, there's very little room for imagination how the game will turn out for the Lakers.
Even if the Clippers are coming off of a 17-game slump, they always give their best against their big brother. The trouble for the Lakers is this team arguably has the best bench in the NBA, especially given the experience and type of players they have in their 2nd unit. But more importantly, the Clippers understand their roles and play for one another. That's certainly something that can be said about the purple and gold right now.
Whether the Lakers like it or not, they will have to decide starting tonight how they want the rest of the season shape up for them. That's because the rest of their schedule, particularly in January, is the toughest stretch of the season for them. That's a bit alarming considering their currently at 15-16. They will need to win a considerable amount of games this month alone just to catchup with the rest of the Western Conference.
A win against the Clippers could very well be what they need to push them.
Matchup of the Game
Steve Nash vs. Chris Paul: Two of the best point guards will go at it tonight. It's a monumental challenge for Nash to find the perfect balance of running the offense for his team while finding the right time to score against a player that can do the same exact things he can do out on the floor. Should be an entertaining matchup!
Keys to the Game
> Come Out With Purpose: The first 5 minutes of the game will tell how the final 43 minutes will turn out for the Lakers. If they don't have that bounce in their step, they might as well not come out for the 2nd half.
> DEFENSE!: With everyone back for the Lakers, make no mistake, the Clippers will throw everything at them tonight. But they have to defend as a team and can't rely on Dwight Howard to bail them out.
> Control CP3: As deep and as good the Clippers are playing right now, their success still relies on Chris Paul. The Lakers must not allow CP3 do whatever he wants on the floor and cannot let him dictate tempo of the game.
Tonight @ Clippers
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. (PST)
TV: TWC SportsNet/ESPN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Chris Duhon (back spams) is game-time decision. Steve Blake (abdomen) is out until at least end of month.
CLIPPERS: Chancey Billlups (foot), Grant Hill (knee) and Trey Thompkins (knee) are all out.