Lakers-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The battle for Los Angeles will be without its two brightest stars Friday night when the Lakers and Clippers square off.

Given the way both teams are playing undermanned, one team is clearly missing its leader more than the other.

The Clippers, the home team in Friday's game, have won back-to-back contests without Chris Paul, who is sidelined for up to six weeks with a separated right shoulder. Blake Griffin led the way in Wednesday's 111-105 victory over Boston with 29 points and eight assists.

Doc Rivers has seen plenty of progress in a pair of wins by a combined 26 points since the Clippers lost their first game with Paul out by 24 points in San Antonio.

"I've been very encouraged," Rivers said. "I've got to do a better job figuring out the second unit. I've got to keep a couple of starters on with both groups because with Chris out and with J.J. (Redick) out it changes a little bit, too."

Redick, who started the team's first 17 games before suffering a broken hand and a torn ligament in his wrist, could return to the court on Friday.

The Lakers (14-22) have not been as strong without their top player. After winning their first game following Kobe Bryant's latest knee injury, they've lost nine of 10, allowing 108.9 points per game while scoring just 97.5.

A major problem has been turnovers, as the absence of Bryant - along with injured guards Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar - has left the Lakers searching for consistency at the point. Recently signed guard Kendall Marshall has dished out 46 assists in his four starts, but he's given it away six times in the last two games and the Lakers had 18 total turnovers in Wednesday's 113-99 loss at Houston.

Since Christmas, the Lakers are allowing a league-worst 22.8 points per game off turnovers.

"That's probably the number one factor in why we're losing," coach Mike D'Antoni told the team's official website. "We're giving up between 20, 25 and 35 points off turnovers. When we get our halfcourt defense set, we're in the top half."

The Clippers (25-13) are well-equipped to take advantage of any Lakers mistakes. The team averages 18.8 points off turnovers and 16.3 fast-break points, both among the top five in the league.

While much of that has to do with the terrific play of Paul, the Clippers have combined for 39 points off turnovers and 44 fast-break points in their two latest games without their star.

Darren Collison is averaging 16.7 points on 62.1 percent shooting since Paul went down.

"(Paul) kind of has the ball in his hands a lot, he's the quarterback," said Jared Dudley, who had 18 points and four steals in the win over the Celtics. "When he's not there, we kind of do (more of a) spread formation where you get the ball to Blake down low, let him dominate, get out in transition, let Jamal (run), so we can kind of pick and choose our shots better."

The Clippers had a four-game win streak in this series before getting outscored 41-24 in the fourth quarter of a 116-103 loss in the season opener Oct. 29.

Lakers guard Xavier Henry led the way with a then career-high 22 points in that win, but he'll miss a sixth consecutive game Friday with a bone bruise in his knee.