Old foes collide as Clippers face Lakers

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Clippers have a shot at improving their status in the Western Conference playoff race when they clash with the rival Lakers Sunday night at Staples Center.

The Clippers will play the last game of a three-game road trip even though they're back in Hollywood.

Los Angeles is currently fifth in the West standings, a half-game ahead of San Antonio and only 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the No. 2 spot. The Rockets will visit Oklahoma City this afternoon.

Memphis sits a half-game behind Houston at No. 3 and is idle Sunday.

The Clippers won for the ninth time in 10 tries with Saturday's 107-92 triumph over the Denver Nuggets, as J.J. Redick and Chris Paul scored 25 and 23 points, respectively, and DeAndre Jordan added 14 and 22 rebounds. Blake Griffin had 12 points, seven assists and four boards in the win.

"Our defensive efficiency since the All-Star break is top five in the league. So we're headed in the right direction at the right time and it was key for us tonight," Redick said.

The Clippers are 24-15 as the guest and unbeaten in the previous six road games. They will play the next three games as the home team versus the Lakers, Grizzlies and Nuggets.

The Clips received some good news on top reserve Jamal Crawford. Crawford was back at practice and could return as soon as Tuesday versus the Lakers. He has been out since March 2 with a calf injury and is averaging 16.4 ppg.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will close out a string of three straight games as the host and have dropped back-to-back meetings with New Orleans and Portland.

In Friday's 107-77 trouncing against the Trail Blazers, Jordan Clarkson scored 27 points and both Wesley Johnson and Jabari Brown ended with 11 points for the Lakers, who shot 38 percent and lost the rebounding battle, 53-43.

"We couldn't respond to them," Los Angeles coach Byron Scott said. "They came out really aggressive in the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor."

Clarkson was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for March and ranked third among rookies - and first on the Lakers - in scoring (15.8 ppg), second in assists (5.2 apg) and sixth in rebounding (4.8 rpg) in 16 starts.

He is the first Lakers player to win Rookie of the Month.

Clarkson will try to keep the progress going against the Clippers, who are 2-0 against the Pacific rivals this season and have won five straight and nine of the last 10 matchups between the teams.