Of all of the NBA Christmas Day games, the one without a true home/away team may be the least contentious game of all. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers both call the Staples Center home, but the arena has been much friendlier to the Clippers than the Lakers lately, with December 25 promising to be no different.

A hot start cooled down

When the Lakers started the season 10-10, it was a moral victory for a team that was one of the worst in the NBA last year. Since then, however, they've had nothing but coal in their Christmas stocking, losing 10 of their last 11 games prior to their first meeting against the Clippers this year.

The Lakers no longer have franchise icon Kobe Bryant around, which has led to some confusion as to who will lead the team in scoring and emotional intensity each night. Louis Williams leads the team with 19.1 points per game despite not starting a single contest and should provide valuable minutes off the bench against the Clippers on Christmas. Where this squad really needs to improve is the defensive end -- the Lakers are one of four teams allowing more than 110 points per game.

Closing championship window

As Christmas comes around, the one thing the Clippers want to find under their tree is time. Each year they've proved to be a formidable power, only to stumble short in the playoffs. Now, as their core begins to move past their prime, their championship window may be closing.

That's true most of all for point guard Chris Paul (once almost traded to the Lakers), who is earning MVP consideration, but also on the wrong side of 30.

After a hot start to the season, the Clippers have cooled back to 22-8, tied for third in the Western Conference. They also recently lost star Blake Griffin to a knee injury after the best start to a season he's had; Christmas against the Lakers will be their fourth game without him, having won the first two against the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs (they play the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night).

Christmas Prediction: Clippers 105, Lakers 90

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