LOS ANGELES CA - DECEMBER 08: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers battles to control a loose ball against Eric Gordon #10 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 8 2010 in Los Angeles California. The Lakers won 87-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season|
|Staples Center (Red and Blue Trim)
|January 16th, 2010, 12:30 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM|
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
Despite a Friday night loss in Oakland against the Warriors, the Clippers still enter their matinee with the Lakers today with a lot of momentum. They've won 8 of 12 overall, and three straight at home, including their big win over the Heat the last time they were in Staples Center on Wednesday night. They've clearly got the confidence that they can beat anybody, with wins already this season over Miami and San Antonio and Chicago among others. They also outplayed the Lakers in the first meeting this season, before blowing the lead in the final seconds, so they know they can play with this team. With Andrew Bynum back in the starting lineup, the Clippers will have to cope with the Lakers' talented front line at full strength, while they themselves are missing Chris Kaman and two other rotation bigs, so that's unfortunate. In the first meeting, DeAndre Jordan defended Pau Gasol; if they do that again, it will leave Blake Griffin on Bynum, in a matchup where Blake will have to try to use his strength to overcome a huge disadvantage in length. If the Clippers are going to win, the formula will probably be similar to the one used against the Heat: get out to a fast start and get the crowd behind you (a tough task today, when a significant portion of the fans will be wearing purple and gold); play good defense throughout; take care of the ball; and avoid major lapses. It's easier said than done, and as a young team the Clippers have not been able to put it all together many times this season. But they seem to be growing and getting more consistent all the time.
From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the Lakers were 8-8 and everyone was asking what was wrong with them. Since then, they've won 9 out of 10 games, and they seem just fine, thank you very much. It helps having Bynum back - with Bynum, the Lakers big rotation is among the best in the league. Without him, they had a second round pick backing up Gasol and Odom, so having him back makes a big difference. The Lakers bench has been very good for them this season, but with the recent injury to Matt Barnes (out eight weeks after knee surgery) they got a little thinner. Still, Shannon Brown has been great, and with Brown and Odom among their non-starters, that's more than most teams have in reserve. Kobe Bryant remains the focal point of the offense, especially in crunch time. In the fourth quarter against Golden State last week, he showed that he's still completely capable of taking over a game down the stretch, even at age 32.
- Beating the good teams. The Clippers have six wins against playoff teams among their thirteen victories. With wins so far over the Thunder, Hornets, Spurs, Bulls, Nuggets and Heat, they'd love nothing more than to add the Lakers to the list. The Clippers have certainly shown that they can beat good teams, but it's not like they're going to be able to sneak up on the Lakers today; after what happened on Wednesday to the Heat, the Lakers should be ready.
- Injury prone centers. Over the past four seasons, which LA center has missed more regular season games, the Clippers' Chris Kaman or the Lakers' Andrew Bynum? The answer for the moment is Bynum, who has missed 120 out of 287 regular season games. Kaman has missed 111 out of 284 games over the same span. Of course, Kaman is out currently, and is expected to miss at least the next ten or so, so he will likely be passing Bynum in games missed before he's back on the court.
- Team USA shooting guards. Kobe Bryant won a Gold Medal with Team USA in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Two years later, he was too banged up to play in the World Championships in Turkey, and in his (and other Redeem Teamers') absence, Eric Gordon donned the red, white and blue, and he too won a Gold Medal. Both have said they would like to be on the team that goes to London for the 2012 Olympics. Gordon is younger and on the rise, but it's hard to imagine that Kobe would not be on the team if he wants to be. Team USA has a problem looming in 2012 where they could be forced to cut multiple players with Gold Medals (they'll likely have about about 20 of them at tryouts).
- Griffin. The Lakers haven't seen the beast that is Blake Griffin yet this season. In the first meeting, he had only 16 points on 17 shots and was somewhat limited by foul trouble. No team in the NBA has kept Griffin down in multiple encounters this season, and I don't expect the Lakers to be the first. Look for Blake to go off in this game. Of course, he's got his active streaks of 25 double doubles and 14 20-10s to take care of as well.
- Gordon. Gordon has scored at least 25 in each of the four games since being held to 10 against Atlanta. He's also had 13 assists in the last two games combined. He's been doing a great job of both making his own shots, and setting up his teammates.
- Bynum and DeAndre. During DeAndre Jordan's rookie season, he had a memorable game against Bynum, going for a career high 23 points and 12 rebounds. DJ shot 11 for 12 in that game, with an NBA record 9 dunks, if I recall correctly. Of course, Bynum did OK himself, scoring his own career high of 42. Jordan's play has been a huge part of the Clippers recent strong play - he'll need to have a big game on the defensive end today, blocking and altering shots without getting into foul trouble.
- Defending Kobe. Eric Gordon is a very good defender and seems to be getting better; it was his defense more than his shooting that earned him minutes on Team USA. But Kobe Bryant is a very tough cover for him. Kobe's got a better post game than any shooting guard in the league, and while EJ is plenty strong, he's giving away three or four inches to Bryant. Ryan Gomes and will likely take turns on Kobe as well.
- Artest on Gordon. The Lakers like to keep Kobe's defensive assignments light and let Ron Artest do the heavy lifting, so expect Artest to defend Gordon while Kobe rests in the vicinity of Gomes. Artest will bully Gordon, and if the officials let him get away with a lot of physical play, it could be a long afternoon for EJ.
- The Battle of LA. When the Clippers host the Lakers, the crowd is usually about 40% Laker fans, and depending on how things go, it can get pretty loud in support of the visitors. But Blake Griffin has a different vibe around the Clippers right now, and the crowd may be more pro-Clipper than usual today.
- Superstar for one game: . Blake had a huge game against the Lakers to end last season, in his final game as a Clipper. Why do I have a feeling he's going to return the favor tonight.
Let thy West Wind sleep onWilliam Blake. To the Evening Star
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver.
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