Preview & Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Kurt —  October 29, 2008

Records: Lakers 1-0 Clippers 0-0
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.9 Clippers N/A
Defensive ratings: Lakers 85.4 ClippersN/A
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thorton, Tim Thomas, Chris Kaman

Lakers notes: That is the way you want to start. Good things were happening everywhere.

The most important thing is that the Lakers defense looked good. The length of the Lakers starters really bothered the Portland shooters, the rotations were crisp, they switched very well (and a lot) on screens, they seemed to communicate and there was very good hustle. Kwame a. added some good points in the comments:

Who says Phil can’t coach defense? I loved the defense last night. I liked the effort on the PNR’s (hard show and recover, forcing the ball handler to go horizontal, not towards the hoop, trapping and playing the passing lane) and how we were denying wing passes.

I also was feeling how Fish, Vlad and Kobe would collapse on the ball when it went into the post.

Also, the 1-2-2 zone we threw at Roy when he was gonna try to penetrate from the top of the key. We did this a little against SA in the playoffs, and I think with Bynum back, it will be even more formidable. Especially when LO is in at the top of that zone, this is where our length will really come in handy.

I liked that zone look and Portland didn’t beat it with ball movement. The Lakers held Portland to 35.7% (eFG%) shooting in the first half.

Offensively, the Lakers did a good job of recognizing mismatches in personnel and exploiting those. The Lakers were 7 of 10 from three-point range for the game. That is a good sign, they only really took open threes from within the offense, and they hit them

I thought that was a great pass by Odom in the first quarter, he drew the defense in and hit a wide-open Sasha. If he had been in the game it would have been a wide-open look.

I think we all hope Oden is back soon and this is nothing serious.

How much can we read into one game? Commenter JD Hastings reminded us that one game is a very poor way to judge a team by looking at the first game from last season.

Sure enough, as we began the game against the Rockets, none of the role players even showed up, doing their best interpretation of their awful showings at the end of 07. Fisher was the only Laker other than Kobe to reach double digits. The team fell behind until Kobe turned it on, looking quite P.O.’d as he single handedly brought the team back and tied the game (maybe even took a lead), only to be devastated when Shane Battier buried the team with a buzzer beating 3.

At the end of the game I text messaged a friend, “It’s going to be a looooong season.” I was sure this game proved nothing had changed and Kobe would be gone within the week. I prepared myself to wander the wilderness…

The next game the Lakers creamed the Suns by 21 points with 8 players scoring 8 points or more and every role player turning in a solid showing.

And we all know how the rest of the season played out. The moral: this one game doesn’t tell us a whole hell of a lot about anything that will be happening come April. Or even January.

The Clippers Coming In: This is the first game for a revamped Clippers roster. People have made the argument that Davis/Camby is a better combo than Brand/Maggette, so the Clippers should be better. That’s debatable (at best), but it only really works if the two stars can stay healthy, and both Davis and Camby have a history of missing games. Davis has a finger issue but will play, Camby is out for tonight.

And, according to Kevin at Clippersblog, losing Camby will make the entire half-court offense tougher for the Clips.

If Marcus Camby is a no-show Wednesday, don’t expect things to improve for Chris Kaman, who’s had — to put it kindly — a choppy preseason. Opponents need to have a reason not to send help down to the block to defend Chris. Marcus Camby at the elbow is one reason. Tim Thomas along the perimeter is another. But neither Brian Skinner nor Paul Davis provide that kind of insurance for Chris in the post.

I’ll happily admit that Baron Davis is one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA — when he is on and focused he can be as good as anyone. He is so entertaining. In the preseason he looked very good, and his Clippers teammates seemed to figure out that if you get out and run with Baron on the break good things happen.

The question is depth. Al Thorton is a good young player, of whom now a lot is expected. Rookie Eric Gordon is going to get a lot of quality minutes. Cuttino Mobley is solid. Tim Thomas is 31 and not on the upside of his career anymore. Then we’re into Ricky Davis and Mike Taylor, guys who had nice preseason, but can they really get key minutes on a playoff team?

But don’t read my opinion, Steve at Clips Nation does a great job and he has his team preview posted. Not that he is sure of all the answers.

Link to Click: One of the better Western Conference previews I’ve seen is up at the very good Pick Axe and Roll blog.

Keys To The Game: Without Camby and with the Lakers in the second night of a back-to-back, if I were Dunleavey I’d go smaller and try to run the Lakers off the floor. Wear them down. The Lakers have the depth and players to match that, but they have to get back in transition defense. That will be key.

Kevin from Clipperblog has another idea:

The best option is physical brutality. The Lakers generally appear least comfortable in their offense when their opponents are banging them around as they move from spot to spot. When that happens, they settle for contested jumpers. Defensively, they’re long, but not great physical defenders – particularly in the post. Both Baron Davis and Cuttino Mobley understand how to apply physicality as a defensive tactic against a team like the Lakers. Kaman has really improved in this capacity. His first couple of years out of Central Michigan, Chris would still occasionally get a little intimidated in the paint. Now, he takes getting beat on the block much more personally, which you can see in his defense. The others are variable. In this regard, slotting Brian Skinner in for Marcus Camby could make a lot of sense. It compromises the Clippers offensively and potentially creates trouble for Kaman, but it would allow the Clips to establish themselves physically against one of the better finesse teams in recent memory.

Where you can watch:In LA we can watch Joel Meyers and Stu on Channel 9, nationally the game is on ESPN. Feel free to watch this and four innings of baseball tonight. Go Rays!