Tonight the Lakers are back, playing an actual NBA basketball game that counts in the standings. It’s a big day, Adam Silver even emailed me about it.1He actually did, by the way. Sure it was a generic message to everyone who has an NBA.com account (like if you ever had league pass), started out by saying “Dear NBA Fan”, and only talked about new camera angles and the game experience they’re trying to improve in the Orlando bubble, but still. Adam Silver emailed me.
The Lakers play the Clippers tonight. And this here is supposed to be a preview of some sort to tell you about it. If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a bit further.
Seriously, though, as I sit here typing away, I’m actively wondering what to tell you about a basketball game I’ve literally been waiting months for. I wonder if I actually have anything to say to you at all about it, honestly.
Because while I can talk to you about matchups; about LeBron vs. Kawhi and Anthony Davis vs. Paul George and the Morris brothers doing battle and how the Clippers being without Lou Williams can be a good and a bad thing for the Lakers,2Lou’s scoring could really kill the Lakers; Lou’s defense could really help the Lakers, particularly on late game switches where LeBron goes mismatch hunting. I’m not really sure if any of that matters right this moment.
I mean, it clearly matters, but my actual focus as I type these words is of wonder that we’re actually here at all. I was never quite sure the NBA’s experiment would get to this point. I wasn’t sure if they could keep COVID-19 at bay, that the players would agree to any of it, or that we’d actually care enough to see it through all the way. Of course the money at stake probably guaranteed that the last two of those things would fall into place, but the first thing is still pretty much a major hurdle. And, for now, the league is clearing it.
I hope that continues. I really do.
Because, in the end, I want to see the Lakers play basketball. I want to see them try to win a championship. I want to see them go through the playoffs, see what works and what doesn’t, make adjustments, and I want to see them win. And that starts tonight, in a game vs. the Clippers.
And now that we’re back on topic, a couple of quick notes:
- It’s not yet clear if Patrick Beverley will play this game, but Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are both out. I’d expect Reggie Jackson to replace Beverley should he not play. Zubac may or may not start, but if he begins on the bench, Joakim Noah will likely replace him. I do expect Paul George, Kawhi, and Marcus Morris to start. I also expect Anthony Davis to play and for anyone else on the Lakers injury list to be available.
- Considering the shifting nature of the Clippers lineup, I’m not sure how the Lakers will matchup defensively. Typically, LeBron would defend Beverley to start, Danny Green would defend Kawhi, and the point guard (Avery Bradley, but now KCP) would defend Paul George. But if Reggie Jackson starts, that may all go out the window and we might just get LeBron on Kawhi to start out. Something to watch for.
- I’ll be very interested to see how many minutes LeBron and AD play, not to mention how deep Vogel goes into his bench this game. The Lakers very easily go 10 players deep and that’s before you get to JR Smith, Quinn Cook, and Jared Dudley. Will any of those latter three get run? If so, how much? My sense is that the Lakers will ramp up to the playoffs and LeBron even said that he needs to listen to his body in these seeding games and that this part of the season is a “marathon”. So, again, something to watch for in how minutes are distributed in this first game.
- The Lakers can, basically, lock up the #1 seed in the west with a win tonight. Beating the Clips would put the Lakers 6.5 games up with only 7 games left to play for both teams, meaning the Lakers would need to lose the rest of their games and the Clippers to finish undefeated for them to swap spots. That doesn’t make this game a must win or anything like that, but it can be pretty decisive in at least one way.
Enjoy the game tonight, folks. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.
Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TNT and Spectrum SportsNet.