LA Clippers must take advantage of LeBron’s injury in first meeting with Lakers

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 06: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a NBA preseason game at Honda Center on October 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 06: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a NBA preseason game at Honda Center on October 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Tonight, the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers will meet for the first time this season. Without LeBron James, this becomes a must-win game for both sides.

Ever since the NBA schedule released in August, we’ve had this game circled. We all have. We knew it would be a tremendously important game, no matter the circumstances. And well, it would appear that we couldn’t be any more right.

The LA Clippers will meet with the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time tonight, and nearly halfway into the regular season, there’s not a full game separating the two. The Clippers are sitting at 20-14, the West’s fourth-best record, while the Lakers are 20-15 and tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for fifth.

Unsurprisingly, LeBron James has been the man for the Lakers. The 33-year-old has been playing extremely well this season, posting averages of 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, despite playing a career-low 34.6 minutes each night. James is also the stat leader in each of those four categories, which is one big reason to believe that the Lakers will struggle to get wins while he’s out with a strained groin.

The Lakers have already lost their first game without James, a thriller against the Sacramento Kings that ended with a game-winning three from the Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic. That was just last night. Now, one night later, an exhausted Lakers squad that’s playing without their leader will have to face an LA Clippers team that’s just found its feet again.

LA has one three of their last four against the Mavericks, Nuggets and Kings, and lost a tight one in the middle against Golden State. This has come after the Clippers started the month 2-7, a disappointing stretch that took them out of first place.

With James on the bench, this becomes a must-win game for both teams.

Playoff seeding is ever-important in the Western Conference, and considering how tight the standings are this season, there may be more than a few teams that finish with the same record. The Clippers and Lakers may be heading for that path by the looks of things, making the season series even more important. A win tonight puts LA one game closer to owning the tiebreaker over the Lakers, which could be the difference between having home-court advantage and not come playoffs time.

Fortunately for the Clippers, James isn’t the only Laker out with an injury. JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo are both expected to miss tonight’s game as well, giving the Clippers even more of an advantage.

Expect Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari to take advantage of the spotlight tonight, and for Montrezl Harrell to continue dominating opposing bigs. Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will also have an opportunity to show out against Lonzo Ball, something he’s done very well against other young point guards.

Next. Tobias Harris deserves to be an All-Star. dark

The LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers will take the floor tonight at 7:30 PM PST. The game will be shown on NBA TV.