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Clippers vs. Lakers - Game Preview

2009/2010 NBA Regular Season
Staples Center
January 6th, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Derek Fisher
Eric Gordon SG Kobe Bryant
Al Thornton SF Ron Artest
Marcus Camby PF Lamar Odom
Chris Kaman C Andrew Bynum

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have won three out of four,but apparently certain bloggers haven't been effusive enough in their praise for the team.  I'll try to be more positive.  Make no mistake - of the most recent victims, neither the injury-riddled Blazers nor the offensively limited Sixers really compare to tonight's opponent.  It's the other recent victim that counts.  If there's a reason to hope that the Clippers can beat the 2009 NBA Champion Lakers, it's because eleven days ago they beat the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics.  I'm convinced that the Clippers have the talent to play with these elite teams - the question is whether they have the intensity to compete on every play, and the discipline to execute without making mistakes.  It's a lot to ask, but it can separate a talented team from a winning team.  It's clear that for the Clippers to have a chance against the Lakers, Baron Davis will have to have a huge game, just as he did against the Celtics.  In fact, point guard is the only matchup that clearly tilts in favor of the Clippers (not taking anything away from Chris Kaman, but Andrew Bynum is no slouch, and always seems to play great against the other team from LA).  Baron will have to dominate his matchup - and Kaman and Eric Gordon will have to be on their games as well for the Clippers to have a chance.

The Antagonist:

This is how good the Lakers are.  They've got the best record in the NBA at 28 and 6, they've won 21 of their last 24 - and people complain that they're not winning impressively enough.  "Oh, they had to go to double OT in Sacramento.  They needed a buzzer beater from Kobe against the Kings in LA.  Why aren't they blowing people out?"  The fact is, they are blowing people out some teams (like second in the conference Dallas, by 35 on Sunday), but usually they do just enough to win.  The Clippers are likely catching a break in this game, as Pau Gasol left Sunday's game with a strained hamstring and sat out last night's game against Houston.  He's questionable for the Clippers, but I doubt they'll want to rush him back.  Ron Artest did return against the Rockets after missing five games with a concussion, but he wasn't particularly sharp, scoring just 7 points in 33 minutes.  And it seems like Kobe's borken finger was bothering him against Houston as well.  On the other hand, Lamar Odom has been a monster lately, with six straight games of double digit rebounds, including a season-high 19 last night in a near triple double performance - and Lamar always plays well against the Clippers.  Then there's Bynum, who although he has underperformed this season, had a great game last night with 24 points, and tends to put up career numbers against the Clips.  He had a season-high 26 on opening night this season, and his career high of 42 came in the LA-LA game last January.  

The Subplots

  • Sneaking up on the Champs?  The Lakers were clearly motivated against the Mavericks Sunday and put quite the beating on them.  But they were lackadaisical against the Kings and frankly were lucky to win.  Did the take the Kings lightly?  Might they take the Clippers lightly as well?  Unfortunately, I think the 'battle of LA' thing means something to them, and consequently I don't think the Clippers are given the chance to 'sneak up' on them.
  • Interesting matchups - Kaman and Bynum.  There are interesting matcups all over the floor.  Bynum versus Kaman of course jumps out.  Kaman has been on a tear - Bynum has killed the Clippers the last couple of times they've met.  Kaman's never played great against the Lakers.  He's scored 20 or more points in 9 of his last 10 games (19 in the other), but he's NEVER scored 20 against the Lakers, in 20 career games. 
  • Interesting matchups - Gordon and Kobe. Then there's Kobe versus Eric Gordon.  Obviously Kobe is the better player, but Gordon is moving into the next tier of shooting guards in the NBA,   There's Kobe and Wade and Roy - and EJ is potentially in the next group.
  • Interesting matchups -Camby and Odom.  There's Odom and Camby - who both play similar roles for their respective teams of doing a lot of things, and getting a lot of rebounds.  Odom is obviously the more skilled player, but Camby can give him some trouble.
  • Craig Smith.  He had a good game against Portland, but he had almost fallen out of the rotation before that.  Don't forget that Smith lit up the Lakers for 26 points in 22 minutes in the pre-season, and he also went for 12 on opening day.  Hopefully he can stay on a role against the Lakers in this one.
  • First meeting.  Man, that was a long time ago.  Baron Davis was 1 for 10, and the Clippers committed 20 turnovers.  It's amazing, given those two stats, that the Clippers were within a point in the fourth quarter.  Pau also missed that game.  If Baron plays well and the Clippers take care of the ball, those would be two obvious improvements over the first meeting. 
  • The benches.  Although it hasn't been the case a lot, the Clippers bench outplayed the Lakers bench in the first meeting.  Bear in mind, this was with Odom in the starting lineup last time, and perhaps tonight as well.  The Clippers bench played well Monday against Portland - hopefully they can keep that up tonight.  Smith is obviously a key there.
  • Movie Quote: 

    It's not true. Some have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good.

    Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets (1997). Technically, not a "Lakers" quote of course but a "lakes" quote.  Turns out, "Lakers" quotes are pretty tough to come by, especially if you're trying to avoid specific references to the the team.  But, given that this quote comes directly from the number one Laker fan himself Jack Nicholson, I thought it was not inappropriate.  Good movie too, although I must admit I never really got the Nicholson/Helen Hunt love story thing.   
  • Get the Lakers perspective at Silver Screen and Roll.