Preview and Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Darius Soriano —  March 25, 2011

Records: Lakers 51-20 (2nd in West), Clippers 28-44 (13th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.7 (2nd in NBA), Clippers 105.8 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (7th in NBA), Clippers 108.9 (19th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Mo Williams, Eric Gordon, Ryan Gomes, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman
Injuries: Lakers: Devin Ebanks & Theo Ratliff (out); Clippers: DeAndre Jordan (doubtful)

The Lakers Coming in: Tonight the Lakers welcome back Andrew Bynum after he served his 2 game suspension. And while the Lakers continued their winning ways without Big Drew, it’s not exactly like they didn’t miss a beat. So, getting Drew back should normalize the Lakers front court rotation and give Pau a few more minutes rest. It should also stabilize their defense and limit the amount of switching the Laker big men do and limit how often the Lakers employ their SSZ look that they were forced to play against Portland.

In the end, these are just housekeeping measures as the Lakers really are rolling. They’re the hottest team in the league and their fight for the #2 seed not only in the West, but in the entire league, is surely becoming the focus. The Lakers currently sit a half game ahead of the Celtics and a half game behind the Bulls in a race that would determine who has home court should the Lakers reach the Finals. Obviously that’s a long way off with many, many games in between now and that end point, but it is something that we should keep an eye on as the regular season comes to a close. After all, I may think that the Lakers can win on the road versus any opponent but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t rather they have HCA against as many teams as they can.

The Clippers Coming in: After a rough stretch to end February, the Clippers have righted the ship and won 7 of their 11 March contests. After trading Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, the Clips have found a more consistent shooter and a guy who’s still quite able to throw Blake Griffin lobs for dunks in Williams, and a situational wing defender in Moon. Both guys seem to be fitting in well and have given this team a bit of a boost after dealing the inconsistent Davis. The Clips have also just gotten Eric Gordon back from injury, appearing in three games for the Clips before tonight’s match up. Gordon has been a bit up and down since his return but did pour in 32 points on 21 shots in their double OT game vs. the Wizards on Thursday.

Not all is positive for the Clips, however. Starting center DeAndre Jordan has been out for nearly a week after coming down with pneumonia. And while Chris Kaman has seamlessly stepped back into the starting position that was once his, his offensive oriented game is a different variable to Jordan’s rugged post defense and ability to block and alter shots while controlling the defensive paint. Don’t get me wrong, Kaman has put up good numbers in Jordan’s absence and he’s shown that he’s still a starting caliber player – many teams would love to have his back to the basket game anchoring their offensive post. But his presence does alter the dynamic of this team as he’s another mouth to feed on offense, whereas Jordan was quite content living off the scraps of others by attacking the offensive glass and being active in the paint whenever the D collapsed on the Clips’ primary threats. All that said, there are worse problems to have than having multiple big men you trust to play in a game. Many teams would kill to have such “issues”.

Clipper Blogs: Visit ClipperBlog for great insight on the other Los Angeles hoops team. They do consistently excellent work.

Keys to game: This is the 4th and final match up between these two teams, so the game plan against them is pretty much set in stone. Offensively the Lakers do have an advantage inside and should go to it often. Griffin, for all his prowess as a weak side shot blocker and a guy who uses his quickness to pick up steals, still isn’t a great one on one defender and the Lakers should look to capitalize on that by going to Gasol inside. I’d love to see the big Spaniard featured on O and not just because he’s donating $1,000 for every point he scores to Japan in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake they suffered recently. Pau’s ability to get good shots both at the elbow and at the low block should open up the offense for the rest of his mates. The team would do well to let him be a focal point on O to get their sets going.

The other key offensively will be how well Kobe can work against a defender that has given him some issues over the years. Eric Gordon is not the tallest defender but he offers good length, quickness, athleticism, and above average strength in his stocky frame. This has often meant that Kobe can’t post him as easily as he does other shorter defenders (ala Wesley Matthews) but also can’t just beat him to his sweet spot at the elbow and elevate over him to shoot his jumper. This won’t deter Kobe from trying these things, but if Kobe hopes to be efficient he’d do well to work some quick passes with hard cuts off of them into his repertoire tonight in order to catch the ball on the move so he can get into space to get his shot off without having to use a dribble.

Defensively, the Lakers are in for a challenge just not the one most fans think of when the opponent is the Clippers. You see, where most teams have to focus their energy on containing Blake Griffin, the Lakers have had good success against him. When facing off against the Lakers, Griffin has only shot 36.4% and has averaged only a shade under 19 points. Both of these numbers are well below his season averages as the combination of defenders that LA has thrown at him have truly bothered him. Gasol expertly uses his length against Blake, sagging off him and tempting him to shoot jumpers. Then the Lakers throw LO or Artest on Griffin and they use their quickness (LO) and brute strength (Artest) to keep him away from his sweet spots and force him to shoot over contested arms. If the Lakers can continue this strategy tonight, I see Griffin having another difficult time scoring efficiently.

However, as I mentioned, Griffin isn’t the only threat. Gordon and Williams are both shot makers who thrive as ball handlers in the P&R and can both bury the open jumper if given a bit of daylight. The Lakers’ D will have to be sharp – especially in the P&R – and will need to invite those long two-point jumpers rather than allowing Gordon or Williams to turn the corner and get into the paint where they both finish well (Gordon is strong enough to get all the way to the rim and finish after contact, Williams will employ a little floater that frustrates shot blockers). This will put the onus on Bynum to show little rust in his return, something that may prove difficult considering it’s been a week since he’s played. Bynum’s responsibilities don’t end there, though, as he’ll also be matched up with Kaman, who is a much bigger threat on O than DeAndre Jordan. Bynum will need to keep his wits about him on D as Kaman is great at showing diverse moves around the goal, including a variety of step throughs and up and unders where he’s prone to go back to his left hand for finishes going middle.

Lastly, the other keys to the game are pace and rebounding. Even with Jordan out, the Clips offer very good athletes that want to get out and run. Mo Williams is very capable of leading a fast break and with Gordon and Griffin flanking him, the Clips can be a terror in the open court. The Lakers must balance their pursuit of offensive rebounds with getting back on D, so they can mark shooters running to the three point line (Foye, Gomes, and Gordon can all knock down the three ball) while also building a wall in the paint so Griffin can’t get a free path to the rim for his spectacular finishes. As for rebounding, Jordan may be out but Kaman is no slouch when attacking the offensive glass. The Lakers must finish possessions with defensive rebounds and then patiently attack the Clips in transition. If the opportunity to set up drag P&R’s in early offense is there, great. But if it’s not, then pull the ball back and attack with post play from Pau and Drew while working Kobe off the ball into position to shoot shots in the lane.

In the end, every game is important now and the Lakers can ill-afford to have a letdown against the Clips. As I mentioned earlier, seeding is on the line with every game between now and the end of the year and the Lakers have a chance to shape their path in the post season. The Clips will offer a challenge tonight but the Lakers can win the game with poise, strong D, and execution on both sides of the ball.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start tim on Fox Sports West & Prime Ticket (for the Clips feed). Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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82 responses to Preview and Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

  1. David West is out for the year w/ a torn ACL. I would expect that to allow Memphis to pass NO for the 7th seed. That is not good news for the Lakers because Memphis is playing very good basketball right now and tied the season series with the Lakers at 2-2.

  2. Reign on Parades March 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    “Griffin, for all his prowess as a weak side shot blocker and a guy that uses his quickness to pick up steals, still isn’t a great one on one defender and the Lakers should look to capitalize on that by going to Gasol inside”

    He doesn’t get steals or (surprisingly) blocks either, all in all defense is the part of his game that still looks rookie to me

  3. i’m interested in how slashers like griffin and gordon attack the cup tonight with bynum defending the paint.

    i wonder if their perception of him has changed and if it influences how they choose to finish around the basket.

  4. Trap game and it’s extremely unfortunate that NO gets the injury so late in the year (for the team). My heart goes out to DWest because he was a great player and vital to NO. My prayers are that he make a full recovery. Looks like he’ll be back in NO next year, given that he will be a free agent and a torn ACL doesn’t bode well for bidding on his services.

  5. @4. I think West has a player option for next season, which I imagine he’ll pick up. Then he can have the 11-12 season to show the rest of the NBA that he’s recovered and is deserving of a multi-year deal.

  6. I don’t see any players opting out this year, unless their situation is very bad. With everything in a “cocked hat” ala the CBA, it would be foolish to simply cast yourself loose before you know what the waters will be like.

  7. @1

    You are right about Memphis. They will be a challenge for the Lakers. However, that is what happens when are not the number one seed. LA got some favorable match ups last season. I still know they can beat Memphis. Plus, I would rather have Dallas in round two as oppose to OKC. I think it will all even out.

  8. ACL tears ruin careers especially with players over 26

  9. Aaron, I feel like you need a hug.

  10. I second that

  11. A note on the Griz:

    Rudy Gay just had surgery on his shoulder, and is expected to miss 4-6 months, which means if the Lakers do see Memphis in the post season, the match up has a different dynamic as Gay is clearly the class of the scorers on that team.

  12. the bobcats are oh so close to upsetting the Cs.

  13. Boston loss..now I’m waiting for Grizz-Bulls game to finish

  14. I never tire of seeing the Celtics lose. Now we need the Bulls to do the same.

  15. Jane, I want a hug.

  16. let’s go, grizzlies.

  17. come on Grizz!

  18. Memphis shooting 53% FG, Bulls at 39%. How is this even a game…

    BTW Leon Powe with 11 points on 2 shots. Noice.

  19. Only two Grizzlies shooting under 50% from the field: Conley and Mayo. This is insane.

  20. Memphis had a lot of chances to win tonight

  21. Nice to see the lepers lose.

  22. did Ray Allen morph into a 7 foot Spaniard all of a sudden :D

  23. Aaron, how do you figure ACL tears are especially bad for players over 26?

    Did Malcolm Gladwell tell you this?

  24. i saw somewhere pau is shooting 49% on long 2s this year.

  25. pau has been deadly on his jumper recently

  26. WOW what a pass by Odom to Gasol for the slaaaaaaaaaaaaaam dunk

  27. Lakers offense rolling so far. Kobe with a nice display of footwork, LO with a beautiful dish. Offense looking so good because they’re getting stops.

  28. Oh my goodness, Lamar that was a filthily nice pass.

    Also – for those of you who watch the show. what do you think Kobe’s odds are of winning Dancing With the Stars when he retires given his pristine footwork abilities?

  29. The Dude Abides March 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    That full-court alley-oop from Wade to LeBron wasn’t a dunk, but this last one from Aminu to Griffin was, and it’s just about the longest dunk off an alley-oop pass that I remember seeing.

  30. @ Simonoid

    If the boys keep their collective foot on the gas, you won’t need one. :)

  31. Anybody have a link to the game?

  32. The Lakers need to continue to play defense and not get comfortable with the fact that their offense is rolling. The ball movement and shot making are great, but the D needs to pick up and the stops need to continue.

  33. Barnes scored for the Clippers… Funny. He seems to be super active and ends up making mistakes.

  34. @32: this seems to be working for me:

    http://nbaliveonline.com/streaming/

  35. Artest throwing it down.

  36. OMFG RON!

  37. that’s incredible

  38. Jane – I want one anyway.

  39. wow, been some nice dunks tonight

  40. QUEENSBRIDGE!

  41. The way Drew has been playing as of late makes it very difficult for guys like me to stay on the “I’m not sold on Drew yet” camp. I like what I see in the big guy. Needless to say, I think I may have to pack my bags and set up my tent in a new camp very soon.

  42. Things are falling rather nicely in place for the Lakers.
    Better record than all potential playoff opponents save the spuz and the bulls…highly unlikely they will pass bulls because bulls are +1 in the loss column and hold tiebreaks vs. lakes (after the 1-1 season record).

    but who would have imagined any of this at the all-star break. also, i’m beginning to think for the first time all season that the celtics may not be there for us in the end.

  43. OK Ron, I think you’ve used up all your dunks for the week…

  44. queensbridge? ……………………………… LMAO on those two dunk attempts, even if its not that funny

  45. I’m not sold on Drew yet.

  46. kobes taking good shots tonight, good controlled game.

  47. Kentucky knocks off Ohio State … Now back 2 our Local Program

  48. let’s see if this works again.

    the blazers are oh so close to upsetting the spurs.

  49. Hey… I’m on my iPhone and can’t watch the game. I only see the box score. I see Williams is 9 for 11 and Gordon is 0 for 11. Who is Artest guarding and who is Fisher guarding?

  50. 51. take a wild guess

  51. 52,
    Hahaha

  52. spurs lose!

  53. My bracket is BEYOND busted and we can’t seem to put away the Clips despite Gordon being 0-11 and Ron being “flex”ible.

    Now I need a hug.

  54. the way the two are playing i think i would rather have sasha over shannon now

  55. MY KENTUCKY WILDCATS SHOCKED THE WORLD TONIGHT!!

    Now someone give me a recap up until this point pretty please since I’m late to the game…

  56. I know Lamar is a team player… But he is having his best season as a Laker and he doesn’t start and he now has been regularly seated on the bench in crunch time. How is he going to handle this? God the Lakers have a lot of talent. Lamar Odom isn’t good enough to start or close games for us. This is a team right out of the 1980’s.

  57. I love Derek Fisher and his intangibles

  58. I have zero worries about Lamar being able to handle not being in at the end of games. We’ve said a lot about him and consistency over the years, but ego has NEVER been a problem for him.

  59. everytime the Lakers get an opportunity to go up by 10, Kobe commits a turnover. What’s up with that?

  60. Bynum got away with a bigtime travel there, but he got the hoop and this game is pretty much in the fridge. That said, can’t say I’m really happy with the level of play tonight. I guess we can call it our annoying tendency to play to our competition?

  61. absolute bs how many times in a game kobe gets fouled and nothing is called…its ridiculous!!!!

  62. Big time steal by Ron Artest

  63. It was obscene for the refs to miss that foul Williams committed on Kobe. A shot like that to the head is not a call that can be missed. Period.

    Defense is sexy. Ron Artest is therefore sexy.

  64. These refs suck!!!!

  65. does fisher have to slap a *****?

  66. this win feels a bit tainted by that bad call on the bynum tip-in.

    i wonder if fish can be fined or suspended for that swipe on kaman.

  67. just consider that swipe by mo on kobe erased.

  68. 68. lets call it even since kobe got knocked upside the head and nothing was called. even steven.

  69. There won’t be a recap tonight, all. Hope everyone has a good night and enjoy this win. With the Spurs losing and Boston losing, the Lakers picked up games on them. With Chi winning and Dallas idle, the Lakers kept pace with where they’ve been in terms of those teams (.5 behind Chi, 1.5 up on Dallas). Quite the productive evening.

  70. I thought Kobe was a one time MVP. The League doesn’t treat him that way, especially by the refs. How can he get slapped in the head, when HE has the ball and he’s in the air in the middle of the lane and no one sees it? Even the announcers missed it until the replay on the Jumbotron.

  71. I predict if the Lakers run the table they will edge out the Bulls for #2 record overall.

    Otherwise, not.

  72. busboys4me @ 73 (and others) – Ahem, as much as I want Kobe and therefore the Lakers to succeed, the sad truth is Kobe treats the refs like garbage and therefore they don’t often give him a break. Now, some would agrue the refs ARE garbage, but nevertheless, when one hands out disrespect, it tends to come around.

    Darius, what do you think?

  73. Guys who have great explosion get a lot of calls. When Kobe was dunking on people he would constantly get the benefit of foul calls. People like to think that Jordan always was helped out by the officials… But during his last three championships when he became a fade away jump shooter he didn’t get a lot of calls either. It’s just the way it is. When a player is moving at a different speed then everyone else (Lebron) they get more calls. It just easier to see when a player gets fouled that way.

  74. Guys

    Kobe just got slapped in the head in the middle of an uncrowded lane. There were three refs and three players but they missed the call. Yes, it revenge but damn it’s too obvious. At least call the obvious ones!!!

    @R

    Wade lambastes refs also, but still gets calls.

    Oh yeah, Celts’ fans are really worried.

    http://www.celticsblog.com/2011/3/25/2072811/its-official-we-have-relinquished-hc-advantage-to-the-lakers

  75. At least refs did not swallow their whistles so much on 24 tonight.Still,it is a psychological thing,Kobe does drive on many occasions despite what some people just comment,but the blatant hacks,chops and mauls often go unnoticed whereas Kevin Martin Lebron, Dwyane and from time to time Durant get all the calls.That makes Kobe hesitant on occasions.

  76. “That makes Kobe hesitant on occasions.”

    Are you kidding?

    I see no evidence that Kobe is ever hesitant. He is one of the best strategic players in the game. I sometimes think fans have a predetermined way they want Kobe to play. He reacts to the situation and defense, that is one reason he is so dangerous.

  77. Busboys @ 77 – I don’t get to see Wade enough to comment on his behavior, but you are probably right.

    Still … I saw Kobe act pretty badly while watching practically courtside vs the Clips in Feb. One time down, he was fouled, got the call, STILL barked something* at the ref, and got a Tech himself! Refs are just like the rest of us, I guess, in that they don’t like to be shown up. They are also like the rest of us, in that they compare notes.

    *probably something along the lines of “It’s about (****thing) time”

  78. -Hey Aaron
    For his career, Jordan averaged 8.2 free throws a game. For his last 3 years he average like 7.9. Don’t tell me he didn’t get the calls. Not to mention it wasn’t the quantity of calls that he got, but the timing of the calls.