Clippers-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

With Chris Paul leading the way, the Los Angeles Clippers prevailed in their first game against the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month.

That's also the last time Paul took the court.

The Clippers are hoping to have Paul available for Wednesday night's rematch as they try to maintain sole possession of the Pacific Division lead by handing the struggling Lakers a fourth straight defeat.

Long the lesser of the league's two Southern California teams, the Clippers (9-5) took a big step toward closing that gap by acquiring Paul from New Orleans on Dec. 14. On the one-month anniversary of that deal, the All-Star point guard scored a season-high 33 points in a 102-94 win over the Lakers, who currently trail by the Clippers by one game.

Blake Griffin added 22 points and 14 rebounds as his team led almost the entire way despite Kobe Bryant scoring 21 of 42 points in the third quarter.

Paul, though, hasn't played since that game because of a strained left hamstring, sitting out his fifth straight contest in Sunday's 103-91 win over visiting Toronto.

The team said on its Twitter account that Paul hopes to play Wednesday, but will listed as questionable.

"You've got to play it on the safe side and be a little more cautious because of the compactness of the season," former Laker Caron Butler told the team's official website. "It's for the long haul and it's about having quality over quantity."

Butler returned from a hyperextended right knee during Sunday's victory, scoring 15 points, and Mo Williams shined again. The guard scored his team's first 17 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 26, his third straight game with at least 25.

Williams was out with a sore right foot during the Jan. 14 win over the Lakers, but scored 30 in a 112-104 loss March 25.

The Lakers (10-8) will try to avoid dropping a fourth straight game for the first time since Dallas swept them out of the Western Conference playoffs in May. They had a nine-game home win streak snapped Sunday, blowing a late three-point lead in a 98-96 loss to Indiana.

They failed to reach 100 points for the 11th straight game, the franchise's longest streak since a 12-game stretch Jan. 12-Feb. 2, 2004.

"There's some bit of frustration at all levels from all of us because we're not performing the way that we think we should right now," coach Mike Brown said. "There's not one particular reason why. It's just something little here and little there."

The Lakers, though, haven't been frustrated often lately in their designated home matchups with the Clippers, having won eight in a row. Bryant has scored 30 or more points in three of the past four, including 37 during the game in March.

His 31.3-point average against the Clippers over the last three seasons is his third-highest versus any opponent. Pau Gasol has provided at least 20 points in each of the past three home games against the Lakers' co-tenants, while Andrew Bynum has averaged 20.0 points and 12.6 boards in the last eight games he's played in the series.

Griffin has scored 22 points in each of his last three overall matchups, while Paul has averaged 12.3 points - 6.4 fewer than his career mark - in his past three road games against the Lakers.

The Clippers haven't won consecutive contests against the Lakers since the final two meetings of the 2006-07 season.