Missing stars mutes glamour of Clippers-Lakers matchup

After meeting just once this season, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are about to get more familiar with one another, starting with a matchup Thursday.

The game will be the first of three between the teams in a span of a month, although the star power usually associated with the clash will be diminished.

The Lakers are expected to be without LeBron James for a fifth consecutive game as the star deals with swelling in his left knee. The Clippers will be without a pair of stars, Kawhi Leonard, who hasn’t played all season after knee surgery, and Paul George, who is out due to a torn ligament in his right elbow.

The injury issues for both teams have them struggling in the playoff race.

While the teams will be reacquainting themselves with each other, they are also settling back into a routine at home. The Lakers will be playing their second game in Los Angeles after a six-game road trip, while the Clippers are playing their first game back following an eight-game jaunt. The Clippers officially are the home team.

«We had great games,» the Clippers’ Nicolas Batum said of the club’s 4-4 trip. «We had some good stuff on the trip. A long trip, we had a lot of injuries, missed guys, but we always find a guy, find a way, find a group to be successful. And we did it for two weeks.»

The Clippers were dragging at the end of the road swing, looking sluggish on defense in a 122-116 defeat against the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

George hasn’t played since Christmas, with the Clippers going 9-12 over that time. Two-way player Amir Coffey has emerged, averaging 13.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game since Dec. 26 and 15.3 points with 4.2 rebounds since Jan. 9.

The Lakers have played just one game with James and Anthony Davis since Dec. 17. Davis missed 17 consecutive games with a knee injury, while James hasn’t played since Jan. 25. There is no timetable for James’ return, which will happen once the knee swelling subsides, according to coach Frank Vogel.

«The No. 1 goal is that (James) is healthy for the long haul, and everything else is less important after that,» Vogel said. «What we have to do is we have to win games when he’s out, and that’s what it comes down to. We have enough (talent).»

The Lakers did win Wednesday, posting a 99-94 victory over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers. Davis scored 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and he provided a personal 6-0 run after the Blazers tied the game 89-all with 2:44 to play. The Lakers never trailed again.

Despite playing in just four games since he has returned, Davis is expected to be back on the court Thursday on consecutive days. He has scored at least 27 points in each of the past three games, and he closed the Wednesday contest with an 11-point fourth quarter.

«We’re trying to play with some force, play with some urgency,» Davis said after the victory. «We just fought. We fought hard. It’s a great win for us.»

–Field Level Media