The Lakers sit at 49-14, first in the Western Conference, and the Clippers are 44-20, second in the Western Conference.
In their first three matchups of the regular season, the Clippers won twice. But the Lakers won the most recent matchup on March 8, just before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the NBA season.
Despite the Lakers winning the most recent matchup, three-time NBA champion B.J. Armstrong joined an episode of the “Heatcheck: Overtime” podcast to say why he thinks the Lakers have to beat the Clippers in Thursday’s contest.
“I don’t think the L.A. Clippers are not going to show their hand. They have the perfect excuse not to because they don’t have their full roster available. The one thing I know about Doc Rivers, he won’t want to give the Lakers any confidence,” Armstrong explained.
“The Clippers feel in their heart of hearts they can beat the Lakers at full strength. They are not worried about what the Lakers are doing because they feel they are better than the Lakers. The Clippers are going to say, ‘We are not at full strength, it’s just another game.’ But make no mistake, when they meet down the line when the playoffs begin, that is when they will really turn it up.
“The big thing Rivers wants is to not give the Lakers any confidence. Mentally, this is a gamesmanship [edge] he is looking to get. If the Lakers lose to the Clippers, I think that could be very damaging to the Lakers right now and Rivers understands that.”
The Clippers haven’t played at full strength for much of the season, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George taking multiple games off for various injuries and load management.
The Lakers certainly have more team chemistry, as LeBron James and Anthony Davis have only missed a combined 11 games so far this season. Leonard and George have already missed 35 combined games.
Either way, it’s sure to be a tight battle and a probable playoff preview when the ball tips on Thursday night at 6 p.m. PST.