LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers and visiting Los Angeles Clippers should be at full strength when they meet in a marquee game on Christmas afternoon.
Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis are listed as questionable, but both are expected to start against the Clippers in the Christmas Day meeting.
James missed a 128-104 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday because of a muscle strain near his rib cage. The defeat was the most one-sided of the season for the Lakers, who have also lost three in a row for the first time.
Making matters worse, Davis slipped early in the fourth quarter and his right knee bent awkwardly. He left the game in discomfort, returned for a few minutes, but then departed for good as Denver’s lead continued to expand.
Both missed practice on Monday, but participated in a walkthrough on Tuesday morning.
The Lakers lost to the Clippers 112-102 in the season opener on Oct. 22. The Clippers were without six-time All-Star forward Paul George, who missed the first three weeks of the season while rehabilitating two offseason shoulder injuries.
George is back and has teamed with the Clippers’ other blockbuster offseason acquisition, Kawhi Leonard, to post an 11-3 record when both are in the lineup.
Leonard is not cleared to play in back-to-back games this season because of lingering knee issues. He played on Saturday night in a one-sided win at the San Antonio Spurs, but rested on Sunday when the Clippers lost at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers were also without starting point guard Patrick Beverley against the Thunder (sore right groin).
Lou Williams moved into a starting role for the fifth time in 105 games over the past two seasons and produced 22 points and seven assists, better than his season averages of 19.5 and 6.1.
“It’s just a different mentality,” Williams said. “Coming into the game as a bench player, it’s just so much more is expected out of you than the other guys coming off of the bench. You are expected to be kind of an extended starter, so to speak. Especially me. I finish a lot of games and I’m playing in the fourth quarter. Your mentality just has to be different. You have to be stronger than everybody coming off of the bench.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel expects a better effort than his team delivered on Sunday. He cited a lack of energy coming off a 10-day road trip against one of the better teams in the Western Conference as the biggest factor in the loss.
“You’re always going to have ebbs and flows to your season,” Vogel said. “We’ve just go to make sure we’re sticking to the process, that we’re correcting the things that are ailing us, while staying together. When you hit adversity — and this is probably a minor adversity stretch for us — there’s always potential for cracks and splinters, and we’ve got to make sure none of that stuff shows up. We’re all trying to do the right thing. We’ve just got to be better.”
Vogel was also asked about his personal relationship with George, whom he coached when both were with the Indiana Pacers from 2011-16.
“He’s family to me, always will be,” Vogel said. “I’ll root for his individual success, except for when we’re playing against him.”
–Field Level Media