Clippers-Lakers preview: Who are these guys?

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers have beaten the Lakers by a combined 84 points in the last two meetings.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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54-23

25-51
April 6th, 2014, 12:30 PM
STAPLES Center (red and blue trim)
ABC, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
21-9 East 12-18
33-14 West 13-33
31-6 Home 14-24
23-17 Road 11-27
29-16 .500+ 11-36
25-7 .500- 14-15
7-3 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Kendall Marshall
J.J. Redick SG Jodie Meeks
Matt Barnes SF Kent Bazemore
Blake Griffin PF Ryan Kelly
DeAndre Jordan C Jordan Hill
Advanced Stats
98.03 (8th of 30) Pace 99.98 (2nd of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 101.8 (21st of 30)
101.9 (8th of 30) DRtg 107.7 (28th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Danny Granger (hamstring) out
Kobe Bryant (knee) out
Jamal Crawford (strained calf) probable
Jordan Farmar (groin) out


Xavier Henry (knee) out


Pau Gasol (vertigo) out


Chris Kaman (calf) doubtful

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 2-1):

Date Venue Final

10/29/13 Lakers home Lakers 116, Clippers 103 Recap Box
01/10/14 Clippers home Clippers 123, Lakers 87 Recap Box
03/06/14 Lakers home Clippers 142, Lakers 94 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are so much more talented than the team that the Lakers will put on the court that the only way they could lose would be if they lacked motivation. I won't even say that they're in danger of not taking the opponent seriously -- they can not take the Lakers seriously and still win easily. In the last meeting, they didn't take them seriously, led by two after the first quarter, and led by 50 in the third quarter. The Clippers can toy with this team and still destroy them, provided they are motivated -- and the simple fact that it's the Lakers, no matter how strange and pathetic the version, is enough motivation.

The Antagonist:

It's great fun to beat the Lakers just as a rule, but it's less compelling when you consider the team that they've been putting on the court. Literally no one who will play for them in this game is very likely to be on the team next season. Steve Nash will likely retire, Pau Gasol would be an idiot not to sign elsewhere, and frankly who cares if anyone else is back. Guys like Xavier Henry and Kendall Marshall, who have performed admirably to revive essentially dead careers, could re-sign with the Lakers, or they parlay their performances into contracts elsewhere. The Lakers have registered several surprising wins during the month of March - over  the Blazers, the Thunder, the Knicks and the Suns. That's not happening in this one.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Lakers are bad on offense. And they're really bad on defense. The Clippers have passed the Heat for the best offense in the league. (Actually, according to NBA.com the two are tied, but basketball-reference has the Clippers way ahead. Differences in the calculation of possessions can cause subtle variations.)
  • Worst season ever. This is almost certain to be the worst Lakers season ever by at least a few measures. Assuming they win fewer than five of their remaining six games, it will be the team's worst season since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. It will also be their worst record since the NBA went to an 82 game season. It will not however be the worst season by winning percentage, a distinction that belongs to the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers who went 19-53.
  • Best season ever. On the other hand, the Clippers need just two more wins in the final five to tie for the best record in franchise history, three more to establish a new high water mark. The timing sure is nice, isn't it?
  • National TV. When will TNT and and ESPN and ABC realize that the Lakers aren't good TV? They probably know their business better than I do, but constantly putting the Lakers on National TV doesn't seem to be doing the league any favors. If these National TV games are to draw the casual fan into becoming a more ardent viewer of the NBA, showcasing one of the worst teams in the league as they get embarrassed yet again is probably not the way to go.
  • The Land of Misfit Toys. Remember the Land of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph Christmas special? (Quick, what was Rudolph's girlfriend's name? Buzzzz! Too late. The answer is Clarisse. "She thinks I'm CUUUUUTE!") There was a Ralph-in-the-Box and a train with square wheels and an elephant with pink polka dots (though I never saw anything wrong with that). That's what the Lakers have become this season. Players who haven't worked out elsewhere in their NBA careers go to the Lakers and give it another shot in the D'Antoni system. And of course the system makes some of them look pretty good. It hasn't produced many wins and it's of no benefit to the team ultimately since none of these guys are signed beyond this season, but Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall and now Marshon Brooks and Kent Bazemore are all getting some exposure with the Lakers which will probably help them remain NBA players for a few more seasons, which didn't look likely for any of them before the season began.
  • The starters, finally? J.J. Redick played for the first time in 25 games on Thursday against the Mavs, but he didn't start. So we still have seen Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin and Jordan start a game together this season. That's 77 games so far without the real starting lineup together.
  • First meeting. The last two meetings between these two teams this season could not have been more different than the first one. The Clippers should have won handily each time -- instead, they lost one, and obliterated the Lakers in the next two. The average margin of victory is Clippers by 23 -- but that includes a Lakers win for some strange reason.
  • Bryant's health. It's impossible to say whether the fracture to Bryant's patellar plate is in some way related to his return from a ruptured Achilles last season. It's clearly not directly related, but things in the body are interrelated in complex ways, and stresses increase in some areas to compensate for weaknesses elsewhere. Most likely it had nothing to do with the Achilles. What is clear though is that bodies begin to break down more frequently as they get older, and that Bryant is 35 and has put an inordinate number of miles on his body. Injuries may be the new normal for the rest of his career.
  • Bryant's contract. The Lakers signed Bryant to a two year extension that allows him to remain the highest paid player in basketball until his 37 before he had even returned from his Achilles injury. He then played six games before being sidelined again. It was a terrible basketball decision to tie up $25M for two seasons in an aging player; but they don't care. They'll rake in the dough during the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour and worry about winning basketball games again in 2016.
  • The future for the purple and gold. Next season the Lakers have Bryant and Steve Nash signed to guaranteed contracts. Those are tying up about $33M in salary between them. The team has an option on Robert Sacre; and Nick Young has a player option, which he'll probably decline. And that's it. They'll have money to spend on free agents -- but it's unclear who they could get. Kevin Love is a logical target in two summers -- he can opt out to become a free agent, things are less than perfect in Minnesota and he went to college in L.A. -- but at this rate it looks like they'd be recruiting him to a pretty bad team with the promise of re-building around him in 2016; not the most compelling case. Still, the Lakers always seem to find a way.
  • 20wo30. Former Clipper Chris Kaman's NBA record of 20 point games without ever scoring 30 (the 20wo30) is slowly creeping closer to 100. He didn't have a great season in Dallas last year, but he did manage to have six more 20 point games. He had ten of them in New Orleans, where once again he was something of an afterthought for the then-Hornets. But he's really a forgotten man with the Lakers, despite the fact that they need... well, they need something. He gets heavy minutes every once in a while when everyone else is injured, and he had a couple more 20 point games. The record is now up to 97 20 point games without ever scoring 30. Sadly Mr. Flippy will likely miss this game and won't have a chance to go for 30 against his old team.
  • Connections. Nick Young and Kaman are former Clippers on the Lakers. Matt Barnes is a former Laker on the Clippers. In addition, Clippers associate head coach Alvin Gentry was Mike D'Antoni's top assistant when D'Antoni coached in Phoenix, and eventually took over the top job for the Suns after the Terry Porter experiment.
  • Get the Lakers perspective at Silver Screen and Roll.
  • Shakespearean reference:
    King Lear -- Act III, Scene 6 -- Edgar
    Frateretto calls me, and tells me Nero is an angler in the
    lake[r] of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.
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