The Back Story:
- October 29, 2008 in LA (Clippers home) - Lakers 117 - Clippers 79 box score recap
- November 5, 2008 in LA (Lakers home) - Lakers 106 - Clippers 88 box score recap
- January 21, 2009 in LA (Clippers home) - Lakers 108 - Clippers 97 box score recap
The Big Picture:
The good news is that there are only six more games left in the Clippers death march of a season. The bad news is that half of them are against Western Conference playoff teams, beginning tonight against the best of them all. The Lakers have 60 wins, and before the week is out, the Clippers will likely have 60 losses. So to say that these are teams at the opposite ends of the NBA spectrum is a bit of an understatement. The Clippers played without Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Mardy Collins and Ricky Davis last night in Denver. Kaman and Thornton are possibilities for this game, and I suppose that if they do play, it improves the Clippers' odds. Like from 'none' to 'slim'. The one thing going for the Clippers in this game is that they should at least be able to get motivated. And I suppose you should never say never - no one really expected the Clippers to beat the Celtics either. The first three meetings between these teams don't tell us a lot beyond that the Lakers are good, which we already knew. The first two games happened over five months ago, when Zach Randolph was a Knick and Eric Gordon was third string. The third meeting occurred while the Clippers had $40M in salary injured. If Kaman and Thornton are able to play, we'll be able to see a semblance of the current Clippers team against the housemates for the first time this season.
When Cleveland lost consecutive games last week, the final two weeks of the season got very interesting for the Lakers. They've already clinched the best record in the Western Conference, guaranteeing them home court advantage through the conference Finals. Now a single game behind the Cavs, and owning the head-to-head series 2-0, with Boston remaining on Cleveland's schedule, the Lakers have a legitimate shot at the best record in the NBA. So you should probably forget about a let down (although it may be unnecessary to get up for the Clippers). The Lakers have dominated the Western Conference from the first week of the season, as opposed to last year when the race came down to the wire. The difference is a full season of Pau Gasol - a truly great basketball player who was shamefully underrated while he was in Memphis - and a full season of Trevor Ariza, who has had a terrific year. Unfortunately for the Lakers, some of their other role players have suffered through down years, most notably Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, both of whom are shooting significantly worse than they did last season. It may not matter. Derek Fisher can provide enough quality minutes at the point that the Lakers massive talent advantage at every other position (especially once Andrew Bynum returns) can carry them to the title.
- An Andrew Bynum sighting. Bynum played some five-on-five in practice yesterday, and according to today's LA Times he'd like to get some minutes against the Clippers tonight. Phil Jackson doesn't think that's likely, but one can understand why Bynum would want to get out there - he scored a career high 42 they last time the teams met.
- Zach versus the Lakers. This is the first time that Zach Randolph will face the Lakers this season. He was with the Knicks for the first two meetings of the LA teams, and he was injured during the third one. Zach could give Lamar Odom some trouble on the offensive end - but then Lamar will return the favor.
- Pau Gasol. Watch Pau closely tonight and see if you don't notice what I was talking about in my post from earlier this week. Pau seems to always be telling his teammates what they did wrong. I watched about five minutes of Lakers-Rockets Thursday and saw him do it twice (once on a defensive rotation, once on a pass). Maybe it's my imagination. Anybody else notice this habit in Gasol? He's a great player and I love almost everything about his game - but I'd like him better if he'd just tell his teammates "My bad" a little more often.
- DeAndre Jordan. DeAndre Jordan has scored 20+ points twice in his NBA career - once in January against the Lakers, and again last night in Denver. So he may be a little amped for this game. Of course, if Kaman plays he may be re-relegated to spot minutes, which is too bad. The more game work Jordan gets, the better. Last night in Denver, he was 8 for 8, and a couple of times he actually made moves in the post, as opposed to simply dunking alley oops. He made a drop step into a left handed jump hook that was easily the best, most polished move of his pro career. Very encouraging.
- Superstar for one game. Trevor Ariza. Ariza's just the 'evergy guy' to kill the Clippers tonight. Last night it was Chris Andersen.
Soon it was commonplace for entire teams to change cities in search of greater profits. The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles where there are no lakes. The Oilers moved to Tennessee where there is no oil. The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City where they don't allow music.
- Get the Lakers perspective at Forum Blue and Gold.