Preview and Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Darius Soriano —  February 25, 2011

Records: Lakers 40-19 (3rd in West), Clippers 21-37 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (2nd in NBA), Clippers 105.9 (20th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (10th in NBA), Clippers 109.6 (23rd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes & Theo Ratliff (out); Clippers: Eric Gordon (out), Mo Williams (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Coming out of the trade deadline there’s no new Laker to welcome or any old Lakers to say goodbye to. Personally, I’m happy for that. I’ve not felt the Lakers needed to make a move to reach their ultimate goal this year, only that they need to get healthy, play to their potential, and reach their peak level come the post-season. With Matt Barnes now practicing, the team is finally getting closer to the healthy part of that equation and all I’m looking for now is good play.

And in the past two contests, that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Two straight wins, including the come from behind effort in overtim against Portland has this team moving in the right direction. There’s still things to improve upon, but it’s clear that the team (at least currently) has the right mindset going into the final stretch of the season. They’ll need that to continue too as they currently sit 3 games back in the loss column to the 2nd place Mavs, a position the Lakers would like to get to if they want to ensure home court advantage should they advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs. The time really is now to make a push and the Lakers look poised to do so.

The Clippers Coming in: There’s a lot going on in Clipper land right now. Blake Griffin was crowned dunk king of 2011, which will only serve as another feather in the cap of what will likely be a rookie of the year campaign for him. But the man that passed him the ball on his trophy clinching dunk is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, Baron Davis has been shipped out to Siberia with Mo Williams and Jamario Moon taking his place in LA. Personally, I’m not a fan of this move by the Clips but I do see why they’d do it. Financially this deal saves them a bunch of money and Mo Williams is a guy that can effectively play off the ball and potentially better compliment Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin in the future. That said, I’ve never thought highly of Williams as a post-season performer and question whether or not he’ll be productive in the most meaningful games. And while there won’t be many of those this season, the Clips hope for those down the line. Only time will tell, though.

As for the Clippers play of late, it’s been pretty bad. They’ve lost 9 of 11 contests including back to back losses to the Thunder and Hornets coming out of the all-star break. Their lone wins in that stretch are against the T-Wolves and Knicks both coming on the Clippers’ Grammy road trip. From what I’ve seen of the team, most of the losses are due to their opponents clogging the paint against Griffin and making the Clips jump shooters – a skill they’re not as good at with Eric Gordon still on the mend. Overall, this is a transition season for the Clips with both Gordon and Griffin showing what they’re capable of but if this team is going to be a long term threat in the West, they’ve still got a lot of strides to make.

Clippers Blogs: ClipperBlog is a must read if you’re looking for all the ins and outs of the other LA franchise.

Keys to game: With Gordon still out and Mo Williams questionable (and likely rusty/learning his new team if he does play) the Clips will need to win the interior if they’ve got any chance of winning.

This means that the Lakers must first and foremost protect the paint on defense and make guys like Foye, Gomes, and Aminu make shots from the outside. If the Lakers surrender dunks and offensive rebounds to Griffin and Jordan, this game will be a lot closer than it need be.

The Lakers must also protect against the Clippers’ guards wanting to push the pace. Rookie Eric Bledsoe has the ability to turn on the jets and has no qualms with rushing the ball up court and looking to finish in the paint against a retreating defense. Since Jordan and Griffin are good defensive rebounders, the Lakers will have to pick their spots on when they attack the offensive glass hard and also ensure that they have good floor balance in order to get back and wall off the paint. If the Lakers control the paint in the half and open court, they’ll be just fine defensively.

Offensively, this is a night where Kobe should be able to go to work. Gordon is a guy that’s consistently given Kobe issues but with him on the sideline, one of Gomes or Foye will be tasked with slowing #24 and that’s something neither are well equipped to do. Either one will be succeptible to post ups (even the bigger Gomes) and neither has the defensive instincts to keep Kobe in front of them on drives to the rim. So, I expect to see Kobe attack a fair amount tonight even if it doesn’t lead to shots for himself.

That last point is key because both Griffin and (especially) Jordan are good help defenders and will leave their men in order to contest/block shots. Kobe would be wise to recognize this and look for dump offs to Bynum and Gasol when they open up on penetration. Gasol can also get going offensively with straight post entries vs. Griffin – a player that has all the physical tools but has not yet learned to consistently apply them to man to man defense. Pau should get plenty of touches on the left block where he can use his hard right hand dribble to set up his rolling hook or then counter off that with step throughs and drop steps to his left hand. If Griffin sags off Pau, the 15 foot jumper will also be readily available to take in rhythm.

This is a game where the Lakers would do well to remember how closely the Clips have played them this year and go for the jugular early. The Clips are a down team right now and just lost Davis via trade. They’re a young team that hasn’t had to deal with the “business” side of this league too often and the Lakers would be smart to take advantage of any distractions that may have seeped into the heads of their opponent. Plus, the Lakers are finding their groove right now and a loss to the Clips would serve a set back that ins’t needed. Get this win and go into a big game on Sunday with some momentum is all the Lakers should be thinking.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

Posts

40 responses to Preview and Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

  1. For Warren. Do we still do this?

    Interesting philosophy from Carmelo Anthony’s Twitter:

    “WHEN THE GRASS IS CUT THE SNAKES WILL SHOW.”

    God I hope that’s a metaphor.

  2. Revenge, for the night Blake “punked” the lakers big men, will take place tonight.

  3. I am impressed from what I have seen from this team since the All Star break, however, if they lose tonight, it pretty much spoils the good post break start completely. So the question is, can this team come out against a down team and go for the kill early, or will they do what they have done so much this season with these kinds of teams, come out with no focus or sense of urgency. They SHOULD beat this team by at least 10 tonight.

  4. 3, your confidence in the team is like a giant game of whack-a-mole. If the Lakers don’t keep smashing the little mole heads, they lose.

  5. 4

    That’s one of the best analogies I’ve ever seen.

  6. Great, Gasol is draining J’s tonight, from everywhere on the court.

  7. ROTFL @ the missed dunk by Griffin!! Pau looks good. In the basketball sense.

  8. Bynum with three early assists…

    And, I cringe every time Kobe gets hit on his hands…

  9. >.< Referees…

    Oh my, they are so often terrible…

  10. Anyone know where I can stream tonight’s game? ATDHE.net is down, presumably for good (Homeland Security, lol)

  11. The Lakers give up a horrible lay up to end the half while Kobe is in the locker room with some sort of undisclosed injury. Things could be going better, though the Lakers are still up 52-50 at the half.

  12. That play by DeAndre Jordan before the half clearly shows why the Clippers Front Office was so willing to trade Baron Davis, they are developing a 7 foot PG as a secret weapon!

  13. I’m really disappointed to only be up by two when the Clips have a shooting % in the 30s. They are being aggressive and we can’t seem to play defense without fouling (according to the refs anyway).

    Bynum’s reaction to DeAndre Jordan’s “run the floor and put it in” in the few seconds before the half is exactly why I get frustrated with him. “Aw, man. What could I have done?” Run, Drew, run!!! And…On a different but equally important note…rebound. Please!!!

  14. Yeah, Kobe looked like he was in pain, I hope it is nothing serious.

  15. Lakers broadcast reported that Kobe has a contusion of the ulna nerve on the right arm

  16. Kobe is just fine, he is knocking down shots, left and right.

  17. Kobe in a zone in the 3rd Q

  18. Did you know that Blake has a FG% of 37 with the Lakers, ugh, but he has a great FT% of 85.

  19. 13, I’m pretty sure Drew can’t run.

  20. That’s worse than Luke Walton who is at 37.8%

  21. Focused effort + improved rebounding + better ball movement + working inside out + a dash of black mamba = 20 pt lead. Nice.

    Edit: @19 LOL.

  22. Zephid, your insulting me for having no confidence in the team when everything I stated in my comment is factual information. Go over and read it again.I actually said I was impressed by the way the team was playing and even said we should have beat this team by at least 10 tonight. If you want to insult me for being negative that is one thing, but I was not being negative at all in that comment. Yes I dont have as much confidence in this team as others, and I can be negative, but I could insult you and others for being overly positive as well, so what is the point for the hate?

  23. Great win against the Clips, Gasol had great numbers tonight, 22 points on 8-9, and 6-6 FT’s.

  24. Joe,
    Not to speak for Zephid, but I don’t think he was trying to insult you. I think his comment is reflective of the fact that you stated that the team’s performance after the break would mean *nothing* if they lost tonight (while further implying that a win by less than double digits wouldn’t be good enough). When that comment is combined with your general tone about the team I don’t think Zephid’s comment is out of line. If you felt insulted, though, I apoligize. That’s not how we want commenters to feel here at FB&G.

  25. I did not say a double digit win would not be good enough. I said the team should win by double digits. There is a big difference and what you thought it meant is not it at all. Second, I said a loss tonight would spoil a good start, which, is very true. Not being mean to the team, just speaking the facts. But its ok, apology accepted.

  26. I guess that Griffin dunk is a new KIA Motors commercial, he is a TV star now.

  27. Good win tonight.

    Shannon and Devin made some pretty sweet plays tonight. Was fun to watch.

    Man, that Ebanks kid is definitely an athlete, if only he could shoot…

  28. And one more thing about the confidence thing. The majority of Lakers fans outside this forum and NBA analysts, including Magic Johnson, do not have high confidence in this team. I am not the only one out there lol.

  29. Phil does not play rookies, therefore they are not going to get much confidence. The only rookies who shoot really well are those drafted high and played a lot during their rookie campaigns.

    Ebanks will be a bright spot for the Lakers in the future – just not for Phil Jackson.

  30. I like that each starter had at least 4 assists, no one had more than 1 turnover, and the shifting of the spotlight from Pau to Kobe to Drew was nice.

    Anyone notice that, no matter whether he’s effective or flailing, Luke throws one backwards-between-the-legs pass every single game?

  31. Craig,
    I sure hope so, cuz that alley-oop he had tonight was just nasty. The dude has hops like Shannon brown.

  32. Darius, to be fair – Zephid’s tone often borders on overaggressive. I can see how it can be interpreted as an insult.

  33. Zephid is awesome.

    So was Kobe tonight, but Pau was even a-freaking-mazing. No offense to the display Kobe put on in a shorter period on harder shots, but wow on Pau. This team has less leeway now with Portland and OKC improving. I’m glad they seem to be taking advantage.

    Also continued happiness with Bynum. Artest will hopefully come back stronger. Shannon took 5 more shots than Pau tonight. I’m glad he’s confident, but hope he rediscovers the touch he had earlier.

  34. (And just to not be taking sides – I probably have more whack a mole confidence than Joe- but Zephid is still awesome)

  35. #32. I hear that. To also be fair, I think many commenters also have their established tone at this site. And in this case, I think both sides probably were interpreted based off their style here at this site.

  36. Joe, I didn’t mean it as an insult, really more of an observation. I know I can be a dick sometimes, so it’s understandable that you’d think I was attacking you.

    However, I do think your statement of a Lakers loss “spoiling” a good start cannot be construed as “fact” in any way, shape, or form. That is opinion in its most pure form. Now if you had said the loss would’ve spoiled the good start for you, then it would be a fact. But saying it is a pure fact is like claiming it is true for all of us, which it most certainly isn’t.

    Not to be a dick, but this bothers me about a lot of commenters. A lot of times, people will make statements like “Drew is the best center in the league!!” when they really should say “I think Drew is the best center in the league!!!” Statements come across as blanketing all commenters if they’re not phrased with the proper personal qualifiers. And I don’t like being blanketed across.

  37. Zephid, you cant sit there and tell me that a home loss to a struggling Clippers team would not have spoiled the good start since the break just a little for you. Not saying it had to bring out negativity in you about the team, but come on, it would have sucked, and I know you hate when this team loses just as much as I do.

  38. Opps, forgot my name somehow haha

  39. It’s kinda impossible for me to argue that it wouldn’t have spoiled the start for me, because the result has already happened. So let me put a few qualifiers on it.

    IF Ron Artest continued to not play like complete shit (at least average)…

    IF Steve Blake managed to seem like he’s actually played basketball before (he did)…

    IF Derek Fisher continues shooting well (he did)…

    Then the Lakers could’ve lost and it wouldn’t have spoiled the start for me. I’m all about progress, and those are the three biggest areas that we need progress from. As long as those three keep trending upward, everyone else (Pau, Kobe, Bynum, Odom) will work themselves out.