Preview & Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Kurt —  November 5, 2008

Records: Lakers 3-0 Clippers 0-4
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 Clippers 91.8
Defensive ratings: Lakers 88 Clippers 116.4
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thorton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman

Lakers notes: First things first, Bynum is fine and will play tonight. Apparently he tweaked his shoulder Monday trying to block a Chris Mihm shot in practice, but it was nothing serious.

Along the lines of the most recent post here about the Lakers defense, some people suggested what the Lakers are doing is similar to what Boston did last year. However, Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus broke down what the Celts did in a post last year and when I bounced the thought off him he said they are different. The Celtics defense is far more traditional, he said, adding that they didn’t do much different than most teams, they just did it far better. The Celtics did very little trapping, while the Lakers new defense seeks to punish ballhanders who go near the trap.

Can the Lakers contain Baron Davis tonight with that defense? It will be one big thing to watch.

The Clippers Coming In: The Clippers finally have the lineup they hoped to have at the start of the season — with Baron Davis at the point and Marcus Camby at the four — healthy and ready to go against the Lakers.

Having Camby back may help the Clippers with their biggest problem so far — giving up points in the paint. So far this season 45% of opposing team’s baskets came close to the basket (for comparison, just 34% of baskets against the Lakers are in close). As is fairly obvious, the closer to the basket you shoot the more likely that the ball goes in.

Kaman is a capable defender inside, but he has gotten no help so far. In the fourth quarter two nights ago, Tim Thomas drew the assignment of the young and energetic Paul Millsap, and Millsap destroyed him — 15 consecutive points, five boards (three offensive) and a +13 for the quarter. Millsap dominated Thomas in the paint, which brings us back to the point above.

However, as Kevin from Clippersblog points out, there were stretches in the second quarter where you got what Clipper fans have hoped for — good spacing and Camby “lording over the paint.” This team is just starting to get healthy, it is starting to show flashes of what it could be.

The problem is, in the West, there is no time to wait until January to figure out what kind of team you are and then hit your stride in the playoffs. Get too far behind in this conference and you will never catch up.

Last Meeting: In the second game of the season, Baron Davis helped the Clippers to a solid start, and the game was close through the first quarter and a half. But, midway through the second, the Lakers went on a 17-0 run (largely with a lineup of Farmar, Ariza, Kobe, Gasol and Bynum), and never looked back. The Lakers won 117-79. It was a complete blowout with seven Lakers scoring in double digits.

Keys To The Game: Last meeting the Lakers had big play inside — Bynum outplayed Kaman and Gasol had a big night against Thomas — and the Lakers should probe inside again. The Lakers dominated the boards and that needs to happen as well.

Camby is a good help defender but his on-ball defense is average. The Lakers, with Pau, should go at him, get Camby in foul trouble and make him work on the defensive end. Also, when he does try to come and help on Bynum or on penetration, look for Pau who should be open.

Through four games the Clippers have been the worst shooting team in the NBA, at just 40.9% (eFG%) and the Lakers need to keep them out of the paint and shooting jumpers. That means not turning the ball over and getting back in transition so as not to let Davis have room in the open court.

In the half court sets, don’t bring a guy to the strong side off Camby around the elbow, that guy is reliable out to 18 feet. The problem is what they like to run is Davis driving off a Kaman pick, Kaman rolling to the basket, a shooter (Mobley) in the corner and Davis driving the lane. It gives Baron a lot of options, so the Lakers need to play that pick and roll well.

Where you can watch: Here in LA you can watch the Lakers broadcast of Fox Sports Net or the underrated Clipper broadcast team on Channel 5 (which now has some convoluted name involving networks nobody watches). No national broadcast, so it’s League Pass or streaming video for the rest of you.