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It’s April 4, 2012 and the (34-20) Los Angeles Lakers face the (32-21) Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in the 55thgame of the year. Pau Gasol (22 points and 12 rebounds) & Ramon  Sessions’ (19 points and 11 assists) posted a double-double, Kobe scored 24 points and his three-point shot at the end of the game saved the Lakers from a bad loss to the Nets after the purple and gold clad team lost a 17-point lead.

The Lakers are riding a three-game winning streak. Not to be out-done, the Clippers are enjoying a six-game winning streak, their longest since 1992. The Clippers are also in the midst of their best 53-game start since arriving in Los Angeles in 1984.

The winner of tonight’s game not only will be able to extend their winning streak, but also win the season series. The Lakers have split the first two games of their three-game season series after taking last season’s series 3-1. The Lakers lead the all-time series 142-49, (96-49 as the L.A. Clippers). The Lakers have lost just two season series in franchise history (1974-1975 & 1992-1993) to the Clippers.

The Lakers are 6-4 in the last 10 games overall against the Clippers. The Lakers are 21-4 all-time against the Clippers in home games at the Staples Center. The Lakers are 9-1 in their last 10 home contests and are winners of their last nine straight. On the road, against the Clippers the Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The irony is that the Lakers are technically playing a road game in their building.

The Lakers will more than likely have to face the Clippers without the services of Andrew Bynum. Bynum’s participation or not will be a game-time decision. It is imperative that everyone in a purple and gold jersey step their game up and do a little bit more in Bynum’s absence. The Lakers have developed a pattern of lethargic play that they will need to shake. Understandably this cannot be done overnight, but the Lakers need to develop a killer instinct, the ability to close out an opponent and maintain leads before the playoffs start.

The Lakers have only actually played a full 48-minute game a few times this season. On several occasions the Lakers have played well enough to acquire a lead by doing a solid job of moving the basketball, moving bodies and playing inside out. The moment the Lakers have a lead the team seems to relax, stop moving the ball to find a high percentage shot, stop going into the post and start settling for jump shots.

The Lakers need to do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, rebound and quickly rotate out to open shooters. Tonight’s game gives Mike Brown the perfect opportunity to provide playing time to Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill. The Lakers are without their starting center and will need a strong contribution from their reserves. The reserves scored 14 points in the previous game, playing the above-mentioned group, that has been a healthy DNP, could increase the bench total.

Lakers: R. Sessions, K. Bryant, M. Peace, J. McRoberts, P. Gasol
Clippers:
C. Paul, R. Foye, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz) & ESPN
  • Los Angeles: Prime Ticket (Ralph Lawler & Mike Smith) & ESPN

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Los Angeles: KFWB 980 (Ralph Lawler, Mike Smith & Brian Sieman)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Sprained Left Ankle) Day-to-Day
  • Jordan Hill (Sprained MCL, Right Knee) Questionable

      Clippers:

  • Chris Paul (Bruised Right Elbow) Day-to-Day
  • Chauncey Billups (Torn Left Achilles Tendon) Out