L.A. Clippers vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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L.A. Clippers vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Harry How/Getty Images

The battle for Los Angeles is set to begin.

Again.

Last season, the Los Angeles Clippers toiled with the prospect of upstaging the Los Angeles Lakers, but to no avail. Kobe Bryant and company took the season series 2-1 and Pacific Division by a game.

But this year is different.

The Clippers are an offseason deeper and still have one of the best point guards in the league. Yet the same can be said for the Lakers as well.

So, which team will strike first, gaining the upper hand in the quest for Tinseltown's primary affections?

We'll find out soon enough.

 

Time: Friday, November 2nd at 10:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Records: Los Angeles Clippers (1-0), Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)

Betting Line: Lakers -3

 

Injuries (via CBSSports.com):

Clippers: Matt Barnes (one-game suspension), out; Chauncey Billups (Achilles), out; Grant Hill (knee), out.

Lakers: Earl Clark (groin), questionable; Steve Nash (shin), doubtful.

 

Key Storylines: Who's the best team in Los Angeles?

A look at one of the battles for Los Angeles from last season.

It's a question that was posed last season, and the Lakers were the clear-cut answer by campaign's end.

But this isn't last season.

The Clippers now come complete with a deeper bench and a newly-motivated Blake Griffin.

They opened the 2012-13 campaign with an impressive victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and are now hoping to overthrow the revamped Lakers.

Speaking of the Lakers, this game means more to them than just proving their superiority within the Staples Center.

Yes, the team definitely wants to snag a win against the Clippers, but they also just want to grab their first victory in general.

For the Lakers, beating the Clippers not only proves who owns Hollywood, but it will help stifle the cries that proclaim it's time for the those in purple and gold to panic.

 

Key Matchup: DeAndre Jordan, C vs. Dwight Howard, C

Howard has been an offensive monster for Lakers thus far.

Let the big and tall games begin.

Unless the Lakers suddenly decide to ditch the Princeton offense—or deviate from its overall blueprint—Howard will remain the focal point on that side of the ball.

In his first two regular season games, he has delivered in such a role; he's currently averaging 26 points on 63 percent shooting. The center formerly known as Superman is also dishing out a career best 3.5 assists per contest.

With Nash unlikely to play, the Lakers are going to need another big night from their freshly-acquired big man.

But that may not be easy going up against Jordan.

Jordan is one of the NBA's premiere shot blockers.

The Clippers' tower is valued primarily because of his defense. He doesn't normally play more than 25 minutes per game, yet going up against Howard, head coach Vinny Del Negro will have no choice but to use him more than sparingly tonight.

Like Howard, he's extremely athletic for his size and navigates the floor—specifically inside the paint—exceptionally well. He's also a shot-blocking machine.

Factor in Jordan's newly-honed post game that saw him score 12 points in 23 minutes against the Grizzlies and Howard—who has blocked just one shot in each of his first two contests—could have his hands full on both ends of the floor as he continues his comeback from back surgery.

 

X-Factors: Jamal Crawford, SG, Clippers

Here's a look at two of Crawford's 29 points against Memphis.

Crawford dropped 29 points in 30 minutes off the bench against the Grizzlies, and the Clippers would love to see a similar output tonight.

More importantly than the combo guard's point totals, though, is his efficiency. He shot 10-of-14 for a 71.4 percent clip from the field against Memphis, an unheard of feat for the career 40.9 percent shooter.

The Clippers will need him to continue to be an accurate shooter if they hope to win this one. Even without Nash, the Lakers have an extremely deep starting lineup, so the Clippers will need every ounce of positive production it can get from their bench.

Especially Crawford.

 

Steve Blake/Chris Duhon, PG, Lakers

Nash's injury will thrust Blake and Duhon into spotlight.

According to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Nash is "doubtful" for tonight's game, which means either Blake or Duhon, or both, will have to step up in his stead.

The two perennial backup floor generals have combined to average 25 minutes per contest thus far, putting up just 3.5 points and 5.5 assists per contest between them. 

Blake is the likely candidate to step into the starting role, but either way Duhon will see a substantial increase from the four minutes he is currently averaging per game.

For the Lakers to have better than a fighting chance without Nash, they're going to need both athletes to resemble some form of competency.

Which, as history has shown us, may prove to be a tall order.

 

Lamar Odom, PF, Los Angeles Clippers

Can Odom bring some more of this to the Clippers tonight?

Yes, Odom is once again playing his former team, but this has more to do with his versatility off the bench than it does anything else.

As I previously stated, even without Nash, the Lakers have a deep pool of talent within their starting lineup. On the bench, however, is a different story.

Despite the presences of Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers lack that versatile two-way presence. 

Odom can score, run the offense and unlike both Jamison and Meeks, can defend a wide array of positions. 

If he can have a strong game on both ends of the floor, Chris Paul and the rest of the starting five's jobs become a whole lot easier.

 

Pau Gasol, PF, Los Angeles

Gasol has been stellar offensively this season.

Gasol is a perpetual All-Star candidate, yet on a team stacked with as many stars as the Lakers, he's an X-factor as well here.

Why exactly?

Because he's the third scoring option the Clippers don't have.

After Paul and Griffin, the Clippers lack consistent scorers. Neither Jordan nor Caron Butler, or even Crawford, provides a source of offensive certainty.

But Gasol does.

Should he be able to continue or exceed his current pace of nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds per contest, the Lakers' potential to emerge from this matchup victorious increases substantially. 

 

Depth Charts: Here's at look at both the Clippers and Lakers' most recent depth charts:

Clippers

Photo via ESPN.com.


Lakers

Photo via ESPN.com.

 

Prediction: Clippers 104, Lakers 96

Never would I have ever thought the Lakers would start the season by losing their first three games, but after exuding faith in them over the first two, I'm inclined to go against them here.

It's not that there isn't hope for them, because there is. After all, superteams take time to develop, just look at the 2010-11 Miami Heat who began their crusade 9-8. Simply put, these assemblies take time.

But it hasn't been enough time for the Lakers just yet. They're still working out the kinks of the Princeton offense and averaging 19.5 turnovers per contest.

Which Los Angeles team will come out on top?

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While the Clippers gave the ball away 22 times in their opening win over Memphis, they counteracted that with 29 fast break points.

The Lakers, though, have just 13 total fast break points in their first two games. That's not only a sign that the team is indeed attempting to run the half-court Princeton offense, but also evidence of the team's lack of offensive execution in general.

Throw Nash's seemingly inevitable absence into the fold, and the Lakers will find themselves outgunned by the likes of Crawford, Griffin, Paul and maybe even Odom.

And by that point, maybe this is what the Lakers need.

Because while an 0-3 start doesn't mean it's time to panic, it will make a strong case for them to ditch the Princeton offense for good.

 

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