First, if you have not already, you can get some “instant” reactions from last night’s Lakers win over the Clippers in the latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast. Pete and I recorded about an hour after the final buzzer sounded on the the 104-102 Lakers victory, so there’s a lot of unvarnished and reflexive takes in there.
We also go into a larger discussion about how the Lakers match up with the Clippers in general, based on what we’ve seen from both teams after playing 4 times. You can listen to the full episode below:
Beyond those thoughts, though, I have more. Here’s a few, in bullet form:1Because as our old friend Kurt Helin once said, bloggers love bullet points.
- Anthony Davis is a problem for the Clippers. Before Thursday’s game, Davis had scored 25, 24, and 30 points in the 3 games vs. the crosstown Clips. On Thursday, he poured in a game high 34 and he did it by being physically imposing. AD drew 13 fouls and shot 17 FT’s (making 16 of them). He wasn’t especially efficient shooting from the field, but that matters less when the other team cannot stop fouling you because you’re too difficult to defend. Davis also hit two of his five shots from behind the arc, both makes coming in a 3rd quarter stretch where he was dominant and turned a game tilting away from the Lakers back into the slugfest it finished as. Who knows what a playoff series might look like should these teams face off, but I do know that Anthony Davis is a problem for the Clippers.
- LeBron’s best work vs. the Clippers will come when the Lakers play with only one big man on the floor. I honestly do not think it matters much which one it is, though AD is, as noted above, the best option. The packed paint that LeBron sees when two of his man teammates are flanking him force him to either become a jump shooter or a passer. LeBron, knowing that he’s not just going to suddenly morph into Klay Thompson, isn’t going to bomb away from deep at the expense of involving his teammates or threatening the front of the rim. So, he’s going to still try to drive and when he does, he’s going to mostly pass if there’s too many bodies between his shooting hand and the rim. Passing in those situations is the right play and LeBron is addicted to making the right play. Which means….
- Shooting is important every night, but it’s especially important against the Clippers. In my heart of hearts, I’m still not sure if the Clippers will ever stop packing the paint vs. LeBron if any non-AD big is on the floor so the Lakers shooters are going to need to make the defense pay from behind the arc. The Lakers only hit 11 of their 36 attempts from deep, which is not making the defense pay. Danny Green went 2-6 which is okay…one more make and that’s 50%, so while I’d like better than 2-6, I’ll live with that. And I’ll more than live with AD’s aforementioned 2-5 and Kuz’s 4-7. Those are great results. But Waiters and KCP and Caruso combined to go 1-11. One of these three guys needs to push that number up by two or three. It’s that simple. Six or nine more points can make all the difference in the type of game these teams played on Thursday. And in a potential playoff game two months from now, I’m certain that will be true again.
- Kyle Kuzma might have played his most well rounded game as a member of the Lakers on Thursday. He’s certainly had better scoring games and there are nights he’s been better on the boards or racked up more assists. But I’m almost certain he’s never played the level of defense he did–particularly when taking into account the level of players he was defending–while also scoring as well while letting the game come to him while also making some of the passes he did while also grabbing 7 rebounds while also only committing a single turnover. If there was ever a game that inspires a “I really hope this is what he can be” thought about Kyle Kuzma, it was Thursday night in the Orlando bubble vs. the Clippers.
There’s more to say about this game, but I’ll leave it there. The Lakers beat the Clippers in a game that almost certainly locks up the #1 seed in the West. It was a good night.