The Lakers look to end preseason with victory as they take on the LA Clippers in a designated “road game.”
Here’s what to keep an eye on when the two clubs tip off at STAPLES Center.
Will Zo give it a go?
After missing the Lakers’ last three preseason games, all eyes are on whether Lonzo Ball will return for this final exhibition.
Nursing a sprained left ankle, Ball — who is listed as questionable — rejoined practice on Thursday but did not participate in full-court scrimmaging.
Luke Walton felt that it is crucial for Ball and his teammates to get reps with one another, as the head coach said that the Lakers have missed Ball’s “ability to make everyone on the court a threat at all times.”
In Ball’s stead, the Lakers received some quality minutes from Alex Caruso, who is on a two-way contract with Los Angeles and its NBA G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers.
In fact, Caruso — who had 10 assists in Wednesday’s game — leads all players in assist ratio this preseason by accounting for 48.9 percent of his team’s dimes while on the floor.
Will we get a preview of the opening night lineup?
Should Ball have the green light to play, he will be joined in the starting lineup by Brandon Ingram and Brook Lopez. The other two spots are a bit more of a mystery.
Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle have each started at power forward, but Walton said that Kyle Kuzma might get a game among the opening five in preseason.
Kuzma has taken the NBA by storm across five exhibitions, ranking fifth in the league in points (19.2 ppg) while shooting 56.2 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Randle is the team’s second-highest scorer (13.0) and its leader in rebounds (7.4), steals (1.8) and blocks (1.0), and Nance could be the best defender among the group.
At the shooting guard slot, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the clear starter this season, but he is suspended for the first two games. Because of this, Walton has proposed the idea of having another player in that spot for the last preseason game, meaning that Jordan Clarkson could get the call on Friday.
How much will either team tip its hand?
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this matchup is that it’s a preview of Thursday’s season opener.
With that in mind, both teams may try to play it coy against the opponent that they’ll be facing in just six days.
Nonetheless, there should be some interesting matchups to keep an eye on ahead of the opener, like Brook Lopez against DeAndre Jordan and Lonzo versus whichever Clipper is tasked with checking him.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A. TNT nationally.
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW