The Lakers hope to avoid an 0-2 start.
The Lakers will try to make up for Tuesday’s loss as they have their home opener at Crypto.com Arena against their crosstown rivals and co-tenants, the LA Clippers. The Clippers definitely had the bragging rights last year when they swept the Lakers in their regular season series (including a very close 111-110 game in February when Reggie Jackson made the game-winner with 4.1 seconds left).
After watching their opener against Golden State, it was evident that it’s more of the same problems for these Lakers. They couldn’t knock down threes. Their defense looked very porous at times. And they couldn’t take care of the basketball (22 turnovers against the Warriors). What’s even discouraging is that their three big stars actually played pretty well. LeBron James finished with a 31-14-8 line. Anthony Davis got going early and finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and four steals. And Russell Westbrook, even with some questionable decision-making, ended with 19 points and 11 boards.
Aside from the poor shooting and letting Golden State build a 27-point lead on them, the supporting cast outside of Kendrick Nunn didn’t show much. Lonnie Walker IV kept getting burned. Patrick Beverley seemed very quiet. Austin Reaves, Matt Ryan, Wenyen Gabriel, and Juan Toscano-Anderson (who received his ring before the game started) didn’t make much of an impact. They’re going to have to do a lot more for the Lakers to put up a fight against the Clippers.
This year’s Clipper team will be decidedly different than last season’s, which failed to get out of the play-in tournament. Paul George missed most of the season due to an elbow injury (and then missed the play-in game against the New Orleans Pelicans because of health and safety protocols). Kawhi Leonard missed all of last year because of his ACL injury. Both of them are ready to go at the start of this campaign. Reggie Jackson held the fort down last season and he returns to the starting line-up along with Marcus Morris, Sr. and Ivica Zubac.
Not only that but Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum, and Terence Mann shore up the bench that includes last year’s midseason acquisitions Robert Covington and Norman Powell. Also, the Clippers picked up former Washington Wizards all-star John Wall, who is looking to resuscitate his NBA career.
The Clips were in the Top 10 in defensive rating in 2021-22 (allowing 109.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com). The return of Leonard and PG-13 are going to make that even deadlier. And their firepower will also help out the Clippers offense (scoring 109.5 points per 100 possessions last season, making them 25th out of 30).
The depth by the Clippers is ridiculous. This team can definitely challenge for the championship should they stay healthy. As our own Eric Patten pointed out, the Clippers have a huge talent advantage over the Lakers outside of their respective stars.
As for match-ups, the Lakers immediately went “small ball” on Tuesday when they started Davis at the 5. They opened with a three-guard line-up with Beverley, Westbrook, and Lonnie Walker IV (with James getting in at power forward). The Clippers also rely on a lot of small ball but Zubac will likely get the start. Davis is always a match-up nightmare and the Lakers will have to take advantage of that.
Suffice to say, the Lakers have to do everything better than Tuesday’s performance to stand a chance. Don’t turn the ball over. Knock down some shots even with those limited lasers (pew pew pew!). Keep the game fast. Defend better (Kawhi and George are going to present major problems for them). Do all of that (a lot easier said than done!) and it can lead to taking bragging rights back from the Clippers after Thursday night. Reminder once again that the Clippers swept the Lakers in their 2021-22 season series.
At the very least, if the Lakers can’t win the championship, they can try to win the hallway series. Man, that bar has really lowered for the team since Oct. 11, 2020.