Preview & Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

Darius Soriano —  January 25, 2012

Records: Lakers 10-8 (10th in West), Clippers 9-5 (3rd in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 101.8 (17th in NBA), Clippers 106.2 (7th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.7 (9th in NBA), Clippers 104.8 (23rd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Clippers: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out), Derrick Caracter (out); Clippers: Chris Paul (questionable), Eric Bledsoe (out)

The Lakers Coming in: Three losses in a row, players (or at least one player in particular) talking about his role, poor production from guards not named Kobe….anything else? Oh yeah, an offense that’s more miss than hit and a defense that’s regressed some since the start of the year. That about does it right?

The good thing in all of this is that the Lakers have finally been able to breathe from a schedule perspective. They had two days off (without travel) for this first time this season in between Sunday’s Pacers game and tonight’s match up. That’s allowed them to have their first(!) practice with contact since the pre-season. Meaning, they’ve been able to actually scrimmage, test out schematic changes in a full speed environment, and basically been able to try and diagnose issues in ways other than watching film or by walking through the motions. I don’t necessarily expect this to produce instant results but I do think it will help. Remember, during pre-season all the talk from Laker camp was about the “spirited” practices and the attention to detail on the defensive side of the ball and out of the gate, that showed. It showed in how hard the team was playing and in how much fight they had. Those are two things that have been somewhat absent lately. If the Lakers are going to get anywhere this year, those are things that need to come back.

The Clippers Coming in: The Clippers have one five of their last seven games, though only two of their last four. Most of their recent struggles (if you even want to call it that) has had to do with Chris Paul missing the past 5 contests with a strained hamstring he sustained the last time these two teams met.

With Paul out, leading the offense has fallen into the hands of Chaunce Billups who’s been a bit up and down. He’s hit some big shots – in the Minnesota game he hit what would have been a shot that sent the game to overtime had Kevin Love not hit his own buzzer beater – but overall his shooting has been below average and his decision making has been questionable in terms of his own shot selection. It’s difficult to question Chauncey’s leadership as he’s been a steadying presence for them, but his play has been erratic.

Mitigating that somewhat has been Mo Williams’ hot streak (he’s scored at leat 25 point in his last 3 games). Mo’s been hitting his jumper, penetrating to create shots for himself and his teammates, and basically, playing top flight basketball. If he can keep playing up this level (even without scoring as much) he’ll insert his name into the 6th man of the year race. Really, he’s been that good.

Clippers Blogs: Clipper Blog is, and has long been, one of the best team sites out there. Give them a read.

Keys to game: Forget for a second that the Lakers are playing the Clippers. Forget for a moment too, that the Clippers are having a resurgent year and that this game has importance both in terms an inter-city battle and in regards to division and conference placement. Forget too how the Chris Paul trade/veto impacted both teams and the fallout that’s ensued.

Even when you forget those things, this is a big game for the Lakers.

As mentioned they’ve lost three in a row and losing another, though not huge in the large scheme, has practical implications and psychological ones. The Lakers aren’t a team that lacks confidence per se, but they do look like a team that’s a bit unsure of itself. They look like they know where they want to go but aren’t quite sure how to get there. A win tonight can steady that ship some. And then when you remember the things I told you to forget a paragraph ago, the added meaning is there too.

Getting the W, though, requires a clean, sharp game from the Lakers. The Clippers are one of the best teams at limiting turnovers and using those extra possessions to score efficiently so the Lakers can’t give them extra possessions via their own miscues. So, the Lakers must not give the ball away via turnovers and must also protect their defensive glass for the same reasons. In the last match up the Lakers surrendered 17 offensive rebounds, many because the guards didn’t close down the FT line or because the bigs were reacting with flat feet. That must improve tonight.

Also key will be defending the P&R and subsequently the three point line. I expect Chris Paul to play tonight and I expect him to be up to his usual standard. That means a ton of pick and roll actions and him working the seams of the Laker D to create shots for himself, but especially his teammates behind the arc.

As mentioned earlier, Billups has not been shooting that well lately but when taken off the ball and allowed to be a spot up shooter he can be deadly. The Lakers must execute their P&R defense crisply and also mix up their coverages to give Paul different looks. I’m hopeful that the Lakers choose, at times, to go under screens to disrupt this action. Paul loves it when a big man hedges because that allows him to string out his dribble and make the big man switch onto him and then he can go to work off the bounce and create any type of shot he wants for himself while also compromising the defense and setting up his mates. The Lakers must not allow Paul to run wild against their big men and going under screens to make him either shoot long jumpers himself is a strategy that could work.

Besides keeping Paul out of the paint, the Lakers must do the same to Blake Griffin. The Lakers have done a good job of making Griffin a jumpshooter in recent games, but Blake is also doing a lot more work off the dribble to try to get to the rim so his defender (mostly Gasol) will need to make sure he keeps Griffin in front of him while still sagging off enough to temp the jumpshot.

Offensively, the Lakers have actually been moving the ball well and hitting the open man in recent games but just haven’t gotten shots to fall. I could go on and on about things I’d like to see improve on this side of the ball (Pau getting more post up chances, Kobe going to the basket more instead of settling for jumpers, Bynum finishing the bunnies he has close to the rim) but in the end, the Lakers role players simply need to make more shots. Fisher, Barnes, Murphy, Kapono, MWP, everyone. Because I don’t care what type of schemes are drawn up, if the only people able to hit a jumper are Pau and Kobe, we’ll continue to see the same offensive issues pop up.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start time on Fox Sports West and NBA TV. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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54 responses to Preview & Chat: The Los Angeles Clippers

  1. Let’s win this for Chick Hearn!

  2. We lose again tonight. And the next game. But the slide will end at 5 when Kobe take the offended in his hands.

    I don’t predict a good rhythm for the team until after the All-Star break. Then we go two rounds into the playoffs as the 5th seed beating the 4th seed Clippers and then lose out in the second round.

    Dwight Howard and Deron Williams joins us in the summer.

  3. Well… I predict we never lose another game again, Kobe is crowned scoring champ, MVP, Finals MVP and the Lakers get so good by the end of the season that every team forfeits their series against us. Also, Luke, Metta and Fish are so delighted with the outcome that they retire at the end of the season. The end.

  4. Well, at least Luke and Metta are gone. =)

  5. LOL. Ok. Fantasy over. Can’t wait for this game!

  6. Hilarious one-two comment punch over at espn:

    poster A: Do you think Derek Fisher could beat up Steve Blake?

    poster b: Derek Fisher could beat up Blake Griffin

  7. Ah the wheels are falling of the Brown wagon.

    Last week player complaint about Brown working them to hard.

    This week Pau complaint about touches and not getting the ball down under to the bigs.

    Let’s see how he talks his way out of this if Lakers get smacked tonight.

    9 of next 10 on the road and players questioning the coach. Not good!

  8. I can’t watch Fisher attempt tp play. He is just terrible, terrible, terrible.

  9. Nice start, morons!

  10. They are just embarrassing.

    Please release Fisher. Make him the coach.

    Fire Brown. Make him defensive coach.

    Or this will remain a lottery team all year.

  11. Nice recovery after the Clippers had an early 10 point lead. Gasol is off to a good start and Goudelock with 5 points provided some bench scoring including one 3

  12. I know that Goudelock is a rooking, but someone needs to tell the outside ref that hand-checking is hand-checking. Mo Williams is draped all over the rook out on the perimeter.

  13. Anyone have a link to the game?

  14. MWP telling Reggie Evans to ‘do something’ going into the commercial break. Wouldn’t be surprised if something jumped off 2nite.

  15. Morris and Goudelock are like two halves that would be a pretty good whole.

    Morris’ offense has been spotty, but he has shown the ability to at least stay in front of quick PG’s.

    Goudelock has shown some offensive upside, but it seems like he gets abused by about any PG he guards. Mo abused him like this in the preseason games too.

  16. I really don’t know why Darius Morris was playing over Goudelock.

  17. @Rudy:

    Morris appears to be ahead of Goudelock on the defensive end by a fair margin–and coach Brown is a defense-first guy.

  18. Goudelock is looking pretty good. Hopefully he can keep up the hot shooting because no one else can seem to hit a 3.

  19. We have to rebound the ball in the 2nd half if we’re going to win this game

  20. Well, the Lakers may not be setting the league a fire with their play, but according to Forbes, they have surpassed the Knicks as the most valuable team in the NBA.

    Maybe that will pay off in an improved roster down the road.

    Ken rails that the team may “remain a lottery team all year.” OK – that could certainly help with the rebuilding process. I’d rather see ’em miss the playoffs than bomb out in the first round, anyway.

  21. Just as in the 1st meeting between these teams, they’re quicker to the ball than us. Therefore, they’re getting a gang of offensive rebounds .. Loving what I’m seeing from our BIGS. Both are being aggressive, but ‘Drew needs to start knocking down those free throws. Kobe playing within the O so far. Lets hope it continues .. BG showed me some things in that 1st half. I see that he really is working on/improving his game.

  22. IF we intend to be a legitimate contender, we need to lose this game and realize our biggest failures. Preventing this loss would just prolong w/e deal we have in place. Would somehow falsely re-assure the team that our current team is sufficient. We are not.

  23. Right now K-Love is much better than Griffin. Too bad we couldn’t have swung hime for Pau.

  24. Is kobe ever going to stop cheating off of billups

  25. The Lakers are teasing us, aren’t they?

  26. Holy Molly

    We finally found something Metta can do.

    Metta World Fight!

    Worth evey million we pay him.

  27. Nice defense Fish nice pass fish nice coaching Brown.

    TAKE FISHER OUT. 4 turnovers.

  28. This has actually been a pretty entertaining game. Can’t remember the last time I thought that about a Lakers game.

    It’s going to come down to rebounding and getting stops. Can we get the stops we need to win this game.

  29. It’s incredible to believe after only playing for one year but Blake Griffin complains about fouls as if he has been playing in the league for 10+ years. Really prevents me from enjoying his game.

  30. And that’s why McRoberts is a scrub. Left Duke too early and never matured or refined his game. Horrible horrible horrible

  31. McRoberts just got tossed from the game

  32. Do you think Brown will play Goudlelock a bit more ir will he bury him om the bench for another 4 or 5 games?

    Just wondering since he has scored ALL the bench points.

  33. That lead lasted an astonishing 3 seconds

  34. WOW MWP made a 3, nooooooooooo, yes

  35. Bynam is plain lazy

  36. There’s been a World Peace sighting! LOL

  37. Will this be the game that gets MWP going?

  38. Heading to the hospital now.

    Peace made a 3 pointer.

    I must be going mad?

  39. Right there–Pau gave the ball back to Kobe with 8 seconds on the shot clock.

  40. I’d like to hope this game leads to better prospects for World Peace …

  41. You can tell Chris Paul is rusty, he isn’t playing like his normal self tonight

  42. Lakers8884,

    I was gonna say, as good as Paul is, I was actually happy to see him come back in for Mo Williams tonight.

  43. That play with Drew shows how Kobe will pass it near the end of games if guys actually move and get in position.

  44. Kobe with the correct decision and passes to Bynum for 2 in clutch time.

    Bynum with the block on Clippers next possession to basically seal the Lakers win.

  45. Big thanks to S for the link!

  46. Who is Bynam?

  47. Goudelock will get burn for the next few games now. Whether he will do anything with it is another matter.

    This game kind of showed that the Lakers are still pretty good when they get something out of the bench, which is rare.

    Kobe gave the ball up to Bynum in a key spot, with Bynum coming through.

    MWP has played pretty well two games in a row now.

  48. And they were 8/16 on 3s.

  49. C’mon people, get off the hate bandwagon before it’s too late.

  50. great TEAM win vs a solid opponent. it’s a start in the right direction 2 days rest helped too

  51. @52, seriously, I was looking at the standings today, they’ve played 3 or 4 more games than most of the other teams in the league. And it’s only been a month today–one extra game a week for a month will definitely catch up with you.

  52. i dont like fisher or metta word peace or bynam amnesty luke we need trades x10

  53. Ken…ok, c’mon now.

    But I agree about the amnesty thing…for the Lakers to even contemplate amnestying Kobe (and I really don’t believe they are) would be foolhardy. Luke is wasted money and wasted bench space- if there is ANY way of jettisoning that contract, the Lakers should pull the trigger.

    I DO like Fisher, just not as a starter. I DO like “World Peace”…just not as a replacement for Ron Artest, who we’re finally seeing flashes of. And Ken, to complain about BynUm’s (seriously…stop putting the a in there, dude- if you can afford season tickets, you can afford a spelling tutor) 19 points and 4 blocks (one of them basically sealing the W)…I mean, what do you want, really? A starting five of Kobe, D-Will, Dwight Howard, Gasol and Lebron or something?? It ain’t happening.