Clippers vs. Lakers - Game Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers is fouled by Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers as he scores on a shot at Staples Center on January 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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9-5

10-8
STAPLES Center (Purple and Gold Trim)
January 25th, 2012, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Derek Fisher
Chauncey Billups SG Kobe Bryant
Caron Butler
SF Matt Barnes
Blake Griffin
PF Pau Gasol
DeAndre Jordan
C Andrew Bynum

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers beat the Lakers 11 days ago in a Clippers home game. Tonight it's the Lakers who will be the home team, and both teams should be primed and ready for this rematch. Chris Paul led the Clippers in that first game, but he tweaked his hamstring late in the fourth quarter and has not played since. All indications are that he'll play tonight (he practiced full speed on Tuesday), but we'll just have to wait and see what happens when the game starts. Even if Paul does play, he could be on a minutes restriction. The Clippers chances in this game may hinge on Paul's availability and effectiveness. The Lakers have a history of having problems containing quick point guards, and Paul in particular has a history of torching the Lakers. Paul was the best player on the court in the first meeting, and may have to be again if the Clippers want to win. Beyond Paul, it's less clear where the Clippers will go for points. Blake Griffin does not match up well against Pau Gasol, not to mention that Blake has been in a bit of a slump. Mo Williams, on the other hand, has been absolutely on fire off the bench, and DeAndre Jordan is coming off his best game of the season on Sunday. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers three times in the CP3 era including two in pre-season. The Lakers have dismissed all of those games as not significant (it's just preseason, it was just a schedule loss). A Clippers win on the Lakers floor with both teams rested would be harder to explain away.

The Antagonist:

The Lakers have lost four of five games beginning with that loss to the Clippers 11 days ago. In road games in Miami and Orlando, they didn't just lose -- they were embarrassed. Then they lost at home to Indiana, their first home loss since opening night. This is a hurting team right now. Which makes them a dangerous team. They would like nothing more than to get back on the right track with a big win against the upstarts from across the hall. You can rest assured that they will not come out flat as they did against the Heat and Magic. The Lakers are struggling despite the fact that both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum are having career type years. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Pau Gasol is having a down year thus far, and beyond those three there's basically no one worth mentioning on the team.

The Subplots

  • All-Star game. When the game tips off tonight, there will be four Western Conference All Stars starters on the floor. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum would all be starters if the voting ended today and are essentially locks to remain the starters. Pau Gasol on the other hand may be in trouble. I would have said he was a likely selection as an All Star reserve a couple weeks, but with the Lakers currently holding the tenth best record in the west and Pau's numbers off, the voters may decide against including a third Laker on the team. Not to mention that the west is loaded with deserving forwards. Right now, I'd take Nowitzki, Love, Aldridge and Millsap over Gasol.
  • Road wins versus home losses. The Clippers have had an extremely friendly schedule so far in terms of home games versus road games. Their four road games so far are easily the fewest in the league (Boston has played six). It remains home friendly through the end of January -- the Clippers only leave LA three times all month, and don't have anything that qualifies as a road trip, as all of their road games in January are one game out and then back home. Even this road game doesn't require any travel. Of course the Clippers will pay for this later, starting in February when 9 of their 14 games are on the road. At any rate, with very few chances to win road games so far, the Clippers stand at one road win versus two home losses as of now -- a win tonight would even that record up.
  • Season series. The Clippers and Lakers only play three times this season, so believe it or not the Clippers can win the season series with a victory tonight. I believe you have to go back to the 92-93 season under Larry Brown for the last time the Clippers won the season series with the Lakers.
  • Metta World Peace. I came across this statistic when I was researching former Clipper Rasual Butler prior to the Toronto game. Butler and Metta World Peace are two of five players in the NBA this season with 300 minutes played and a true shooting percentage (TSP) of less than .400. TSP accounts for three pointers and free throws, and basically, if you're TSP is below .500, you're hurting your team. So a TSP of .400 is really terrible. Oh, and by the way, that number for MWP is after he had by far his best game of the season on Sunday.
  • Three point shooting. Speaking of terrible shooting, the Lakers three point shooting this season has been abominable. They are dead last in the NBA in three point percentage, barely making more than one in four three point attempts. That terrible percentage hasn't kept them from launching over 15 a game.There was an extensive post at Silver Screen and Roll earlier this week on the year over year decline in this Lakers' three point shooting.
  • Benches. The Clippers bench has been pretty anemic this season. There have been many games this season where the starters built a sizable lead, only to watch from the bench as it disappeared. But as bad as the Clippers' bench has been, it's been SO MUCH BETTER than the Lakers bench. Of course, the Clippers bench suffered some lately with Paul missing five games, Mo Williams missing three, and Caron Butler missing one (I won't mention Brian Cook). It will be nice to be back at full strength for this game, assuming Paul plays. The Lakers bench, consisting of MWP, Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy, Darius Morris and Jason Kapono has been an almost complete non-factor. We've already discussed MWP. McBob, as far as I can tell, does one thing relatively well -- he gives hard fouls. Haven't noticed him do anything else this season. Murphy and Kapono are three point specialists, so you can see how much they've helped given the Lakers' historic lows there. And Morris is a rookie second rounder who wouldn't even be playing if Steve Blake were healthy.
  • Expect it to get chippy. The first game this season, both pre-season games, a couple games last season... basically, every meeting between these teams since the Clippers got competitive has had an edge. There will be hard fouls, there will be technicals. Heck, with McRoberts and Barnes around, there pretty much has to be a hard foul or two, since those guys don't have many other NBA level skills.
  • Mo Williams. The Clippers' bench has been much, much better the last few games, due almost entirely to one man: Mo Williams. Williams has been on a tear the last three games, scoring 26, 25 and 26, while shooting 64% and making 8 of 13 threes. Mo didn't even play in the last meeting with the Lakers, so the Clippers should have a much stronger bench heading into this one.
  • Defending Kobe. The Clippers will likely begin the game with Caron Butler on Kobe as they did last time. Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes will also likely take turns checking him. Then, in the fourth quarter, I expect to see the Clippers run two defenders at Kobe as soon as he enters the front court.
  • Kobe's usage. Kobe led the NBA last season with a usage percentage (the number of his team's possessions that he uses while he's on the floor) over 35%. So far this season, he's at an astronomical 38.8%. That's the highest usage rate since the stats that comprise it have been available, beating his own mark from 05-06. Of course, the second leading scorer on that team was Lamar Odom followed by Smush Parker -- this team has Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Why Kobe is using possessions at an historic rate at the expense of the best front line in the NBA is hard to figure.
  • CP3 must take control. The Clippers have been their best this season (beating Miami, blowing out Houston, beating the Lakers) when Chris Paul has been aggressive on the offensive end. Assuming he plays, that will need to be the case tonight. The Lakers have a terrible time defending quick point guards (as evidenced by Paul's dismantling of them in last year's playoffs), while Pau Gasol tends to give Blake Griffin fits. Paul will need to be the focal point of the offense for much of the evening if the Clippers hope to win.
  • Tough task for DJ. DeAndre Jordan has a very, very difficult task ahead of him this evening. He's leading the NBA in blocked shots per game, but in the second pre-season game, when he left Bynum to go challenge shots, Bynum invariably gobbled up the loose ball and scored. Then in the first regular season meeting, he picked up two fouls in four minutes and had to sit. DJ has to use some discretion and not go after every single block when he's responsible for a monster like Bynum, and at the same time he has to stay out of foul trouble. That means he'll have to resist the urge to go chase impossible blocks and instead box out Bynum, which is simply not in DeAndre's nature. Jordan is coming off one of the best games of his career, 16 points and 16 rebounds in just 25 minutes against Toronto. Of course Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are not Amir Johnson and Ed Davis.
  • Pau Troubles Blake. Few defenders in the league seem to give Blake more trouble than Pau Gasol. Gasol is smart, he won't get beaten easily, and he's crazy long, long enough to bother Griffin's shot. As a result, Blake struggled against the Lakers last season, shooting below 40% in three of the four meetings. Houston (and his other nemesis, Chuck Hayes) is the only team to hold him to a lower shooting percentage among Western Conference teams. In the first meeting this season, Blake had a very respectable game, with 22 points on 9 for 18 shooting and 14 rebounds.
  • Rebounding. At the time of the last meeting, the Lakers were the best rebounding team in the league and the Clippers were the worst. The Clippers won the rebound battle that night, and have won the boards in most of their games since. Their 17 offensive rebounds in the first meeting were a key to victory. In the past 11 days, the Clippers have moved up from the bottom of the rebounding rankings while the Lakers have moved down from the top. The rebound battle will certainly be key again in this game, but it's not the mismatch we thought it was.
  • Rested teams. Both teams had Monday and Tuesday off to prepare for this game. The Clippers even had Sunday afternoon off, as they played a 12:30 game on Sunday compared to the Lakers 7:30 game.
  • No excuses. When the Clippers beat the Lakers twice in pre-season, the Lakers said it's just pre-season, it doesn't matter. When the Clippers beat the Lakers 11 days ago, leading the game wire to wire, the Lakers said the Clippers were rested while the Lakers were tired and it was nothing more than a schedule loss. With the Lakers at home coming off two days of rest and playing only their fourth game in the last nine days, we'll see if they need any excuses after this one.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    laker

    a retired pirate that lives on a lake, with the big beard and hook for a hand and yellow trench coat

    look at that badass laker bro
  • Get the Lakers perspective at Silver Screen and Roll.
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