After their second 1-game trip to Texas this season (and their 2nd blowout loss, this time to the Spurs) the Lakers are back in Los Angeles to play a “road” game against the Clippers. The game is a matinee with a 12:30pm start time so the Kings can use Staples tonight to play against Winnipeg. According to Arash Markazi, this just the 3rd time a little over a decade that all three of the Lakers, Kings, and Clippers have all played a game in the Arena on the same day. So, the more you know.
Anyways, the Lakers have been playing pretty poorly over their last 6 quarters. A really bad 2nd half against the Blazers bled into the aforementioned lopsided loss against the Spurs. The Clippers, on the other hand, have won 5 games in a row after a string of losses to close 2016. One of those losses was to the Lakers in their last match up, the gift a lot of fans were looking for on Christmas.
Like that game, the Clippers’ poor results were mostly injury related. At one point they were missing Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick at the same time, a brutal run of injuries that would cripple any team, but especially one as dependent on their stars as the Clippers. Some teams — the Warriors and Spurs, for example — have very strong systems which are only enhanced by their superstar talent. The Clippers system is their superstar talent — especially Paul. Surviving one guy’s absence might be tolerable, but missing two or three of their top 4 players is untenable.
Luckily for them — and bad for the Lakers — Paul and Redick are back and playing really well. Since returning to the lineup three games ago, Chris Paul has had lines of 14/6/12, 19/6/18, and 18/7/6. After a couple of rough games after returning from his own ailments, Redick has not scored under 19 points in his last 5 games while hitting nearly 44% of his 3 pointers. Add this to DeAndre Jordan’s play in the paint (on both ends of the floor) and the Clippers are starting to roll again.
Getting back to today’s game, then, the Lakers have their hands full. It looked like they were starting to turn a corner recently, but the past two games have been a reminder that they still have a ways to go. Can Russell deal with Paul on both ends of the floor? Can Randle take advantage of Griffin being out even though he’ll have to deal with Jordan lurking on the back-side to contest his shots? Can Mozgov help out Randle by hitting jumpers and protecting him on the defensive glass? Can Lou, Young, and Clarkson hit enough jumpers to counter the shooting Redick (and others) will provide?
If the answers to these questions end up being yes, the Lakers will not only keep the game close, but can win this game. But if Paul plays as he has been and the team doesn’t find a way to limit Redick, the odds start tilting towards the Clippers quickly. I know that’s pretty basic analysis, but sometimes the game really is simple. As we saw when the Lakers started to play better, when your best players perform well you have a good chance of winning. In other words, I’m looking for Russell and Randle to set the tone.
Last note, I’m happy to see Ingram playing well lately and I’m very interested in seeing if he can keep it going. The Clippers don’t have great depth on the wing and when they go to their reserves Ingram will have a chance to get it going — especially if he continues to attack the rim when Jordan goes to the bench. Bass and Speights can offer some resistance in the restricted area, but Ingram has been showing a better understanding of how to use his length around the hoop to get baskets. If he can continue that while keeping up his newfound accuracy from deep, he could be in for a good game.
Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.