Breaking Down How the LA Clippers Can Combat Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IISeptember 21, 2012

Breaking Down How the LA Clippers Can Combat Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol

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    With the Los Angeles Lakers' two towers of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, the Los Angeles Clippers are again a step behind their co-tenant rivals.

    The Lakers' team of superfriends in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Gasol and Howard is loaded with enough talent and star power to make LAL the team to beat in the Pacific Division.

    Despite the length of Gasol and Howard, the Clippers are one of the few teams in the NBA that have kept up with the Lakers on a routine basis.

    Even with the Lake Show's success, the leadership of Chris Paul and the development of Blake Griffin is enough to keep the Clippers in the conversation for the battle of L.A.

    With divisional games more meaningful than ever, it will take a complete effort on both sides of the ball for Lob City to knock off the Purple and Gold.

    Here is how the Clippers can combat the length and dominance of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard

Big Games from DJ

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    DeAndre Jordan is one of the few centers with a big enough body to defend a player as massive as Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol.

    Jordan's mental mistakes and confidence issues are of tremendous concern and need to be addressed. But if he can capitalize on his strengths four times a year against LAL, then the Clippers could find success against the Lakers.

    In the Clippers' one game against Howard and the Orlando Magic last season, D.J.'s numbers were miserable.

    In 32 minutes of action, Jordan put up just eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out.

    Against the Lakers, his numbers were marginally better at 8.7 PPG and 9.3 RPG, while enjoying a greater emphasis on defense with two blocks per game.

    If Jordan rolls over in divisional games against the Lakers, then the Clippers' chances of knocking off the Lake Show are slim. Coach Vinny Del Negro will need to push D.J. to rise up to the challenge against Gasol and Howard this season.

Different Looks

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    Rounding out Lob City's frontline, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins will have to play serviceable minutes against the Lakers' dominant big men.

    Outside of Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins, the Clippers also have big bodies in DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and even Lamar Odom that will have to play heavy minutes against Gasol and Howard.

    The task will be daunting for any of the Clippers' big men, but throwing different looks at Howard and Gasol could be the right remedy to disrupt any offensive flow.

    Being especially physical with Gasol will be key. In 2008, the Spaniard earned the tag "soft" after he was repeatedly roughed up by Kevin Garnett and Co. in the NBA Finals.

    How the Clippers limit the offensive opportunities of Gasol and Howard will be pivotal in these divisional matchups.

Foul Trouble

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    The best way to nullify the contributions of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol is to get them out of the game.

    Breaking down the defense and getting into the paint is the Clippers' best chance of getting Gasol and Howard into foul trouble.

    Unfortunately for Lob City, neither Gasol nor Howard even average over three fouls per game.

    In last year's lockout-shortened season, Gasol never fouled out of a game, while Howard only fouled out twice.

    Still, if the Clippers can move the ball and get into the heart of the defense, then Gasol and Howard could find themselves on the bench early.

Hack-a-Howard

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    Since the days of Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers have not featured such a prolific player with such significant free-throw deficiencies.

    Dwight Howard is a woeful 58.8 percent career free-throw shooter. Last year, D12 endured his worst free-throw shooting season of his career at a pathetic 49.1 percent.

    Coaches like Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and Mark Jackson in Golden State have been proponents of hacking poor free-throw shooters.

    Last season, both coaches intentionally put the Clips' DeAndre Jordan at the line and made him earn it at the stripe.

    Perhaps Vinny Del Negro would be wise to take a page out of his colleagues' books and opt for the Hack-a-Howard.

    Sending Superman to the line would certainly have its benefits. Stopping the clock would hinder the potency of a dynamic Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash backcourt, and negate the Lakers' offensive momentum.

Guard Play

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    In the event that Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard go off against the Clippers, Lob City could use the depth of its backcourt to offset the dominance of the Lakers inside.

    Chris Paul is the best point guard on the planet, and he has an infectious level of confidence to elevate the play of his teammates.

    With Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford, LAC has the capacity to light it up from the perimeter. Throw in the toughness of Caron Butler and Matt Barnes with the spark plug of Eric Bledsoe, and the Clips have the ability to score points in a hurry.

    While offsetting the talent of the Lakers' Hall of Fame backcourt is no easy task, the Clippers do have the pieces to consistently put big runs together.

Bench Mob

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    From Grant Hill to Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe to Jamal Crawford, LAC is loaded with firepower deep into its bench.

    In the marathon that is an 82-game season, the Clippers will need more than the punch of Paul and Griffin to make noise in the Pacific Division.

    The strength of the Clippers bench will be all the more important in big games against the team's division rivals.

    If coach Del Negro can get production out of his bench, then he will be able keep his starters fresh and ready to do battle against Howard, Gasol and the rest of the Lakers.

Push the Tempo

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    Even though Chris Paul is a maestro in the halfcourt, the Wake Forest product would be wise to push the tempo in the Clippers' four divisional games against the Lakers.

    Age and tired bodies might be one of the only things holding the Lakers back from Pacific Division dominance this season.

    Outside of Dwight Howard, the most athletic center in the game, the Lakers' starting lineup is rather old. Other than Superman, the Lakers do not have another starter under the age of 32. 

    On the other hand, Lob City has some the youngest and most athletic players in the game. 

    Griffin and Jordan are obvious examples, but the team has two other sub-30 run-and-gunners in Paul and Bledsoe as well.

    If the Clippers can get out on the break and push the tempo, then they can avoid having to play around the length of Howard and Gasol in the paint.

    LAC needs to use its youth and athletic advantage if Paul and Co. have any chance of hanging with the Lake Show this season.