On opening night these two teams faced off and the Lakers were, essentially, trounced. A 34-21 Clippers advantage in the 3rd quarter created the distance between the two teams that carried over to the 108-92 defeat.
There’s no need to get further into the details of that game, mainly because so much has changed since opening night I’m not even sure it’s relevant. These are just the things I can think of off the top of my head:
- After that win, the Clippers won 3 more consecutive games but then proceeded to lose 11 of their next 14 games, including a stretch of 9 straight.
- The Clippers have lost 3 starters from that opening night win to injury: starting guards Patrick Beverley (knee) and Milos Teodosic (foot), and SF Danilo Gallinari (
reading his DM’sglute strain)
- The Lakers have KCP back in the lineup who missed opening night due to suspension.
- Julius Randle is no longer pouting after being demoted to the bench.
- Lonzo Ball is not playing in his first game in over two weeks after dealing with a sprained ankle as he was on opening night.
There’s more, I know, but these things above matter. A lot, actually.
The Clippers have won two straight games, but those came against the Hawks and the Kings — and they needed a Blake Griffin buzzer-beater to beat Sacramento. I know, I know…the Lakers just lost to the Kings too, but I think we all know the Kings aren’t very good and neither are the Hawks. (One could make an argument neither are the Lakers or the Clippers, but that’s another post).
Anyways, the Lakers are 8-11 and the Clippers are a half game worse (but loving the craps table and slurpees) at 7-11. So, you know, I’m not quite sure what to make of this supposed “battle for Los Angeles” other than I’m sure this game matters to some fans, but in the larger scope of things it’s just another game between two sub-.500 teams.
Getting beyond that, the Clippers injuries really are problematic and should aid the Lakers a fair amount. They were shallow on the perimeter before these injuries and now with so many wings hurt, they’re overly reliant on Wes Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell as key rotation players. As Jeff Van Gundy said on a recent podcast with Zach Lowe, if “next man up” was really a thing that worked out for teams, those subs would probably make the same money as the guys they’re replacing. In my best narrator voice “they don’t”.
The Lakers, then, should be looking take advantage on the wing, even if their own talent there doesn’t run especially deep. Brandon Ingram, KCP, Jordan Clarkson, Lonzo Ball…all should look to be assertive offensively and force the Clippers into help situations. The more the Lakers can extend the Clippers big men in their defensive rotations and force them to expend energy on both sides of the floor, the better.
Related, this game will almost certainly come down to which team’s bigs can have the bigger impact. On one hand, Blake Griffin is clearly the best player of this bunch and DeAndre Jordan can give Lopez on both ends with his active defense and ability to be an above the rim player as a finisher and rebounder.
That said, with Julius Randle playing as well as he has been, Brook Lopez still being the team’s best combination of size/shooting/passing, Larry Nance’s return from his broken hand, and Kyle Kuzma offering scoring punch, the wave of options the Lakers can offer at PF/C has a chance to win this match up. Particularly if 3 of these guys can play well.
Ultimately, though, this will still come down to how much Nance and later Randle/Kuzma can contain Griffin. If Blake is bombing 3-pointers and then getting to the rim at will the way he did on opening night, the Lakers defense will be forced to collapse and Jordan will run wild on the offensive glass. However, if the Lakers PF’s can effectively run Griffin off the line and still keep him out of the lane, the Lakers C’s can stay home on Jordan, and the team’s guards/wings can help clean up the backboards. That’s a lot of things that need to go right for the Lakers to win possessions, but that is the formula.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.