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Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center (Purple and Gold Trim)
February 25th, 2011, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Derek Fisher
Randy Foye SG Kobe Bryant
Ryan Gomes
SF Ron Artest
Blake Griffin
PF Pau Gasol
DeAndre Jordan
C Andrew Bynum

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

After ten games outside of California over the course of three full weeks, the Clippers finally return to LA tonight. They may not be the home team, but at least they are home, practicing in their own facility, sleeping in their own beds. Of course the return to LA takes something of a back seat to the major trade that the team just consummated, sending Baron Davis, the erstwhile face of the franchise, along with this year's lottery pick, to Cleveland for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. It's unclear where Williams and Moon will be available for this game - my guess is no - but Davis missed the last game with a sore knee, so that doesn't really change much. What is significant however is that the Clippers have not been particularly good without Davis this season, so the prospect of playing the final 25 games without him is pretty daunting. It would be less so if Eric Gordon were healthy, but he's probably still a few days away - the team is still targeting Monday's game in Sacramento for his return. Which means that the Clippers will be going up against the Lakers with a backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye, with Rasual Butler coming off the bench. Eek. The Clippers are about 2 tenths of a second (or maybe a couple of centimeters of DeAndre Jordan's arm) from being 2-0 against the Lakers this season. But it's going to take a monumental effort from Blake Griffin, not to mention solid games from Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan and Ryan Gomes, for the Clippers to even have a chance in this one.

The Antagonist:

The Lakers lost their final three games before the All Star Break (including a 20 point loss in Charlotte and an embarrassing loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland) and there was much concern in Laker-land. But wins over Atlanta and Portland since the break have calmed the nerves a bit. Still, the Lakers may indeed have issues. For starters, there are the starters. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest are among the least productive full time starters in the entire league. But that may not be too much of a concern, since they don't expect to get that much from those guys anyway. The bench hasn't been helping much since Matt Barnes got hurt (Barnes will be back soon, but not for this one). The real question is Pau Gasol - after starting the season out on fire, his productivity fell off significantly in December and January. But he's experience and major resurgency in February. When Gasol is playing well, he and Kobe Bryant form probably the single best inside-outside tandem in the league. That, combined with the team's uncanny length defending the rim and rebounding, make them a difficult team to deal with. Don't count them out by any means, no matter how many games they lose in February. These guys have been there before, and they'd be my pick to advance to the NBA Finals out of the West when the games really count in May.

The Subplots

  • Blake and Lamar. The last time these teams met things didn't exactly end on the friendliest of notes. In the final seconds, Lamar Odom took umbrage at Blake Griffin's continued aggressive play, and grabbed Griffin by the jersey and spun him around after a free throw. Both teams got into each others' faces for a time, but the incident ended with nothing more severe than a couple of technical fouls being called. But if that's the way that one ended, one can only assume that this one will start with a little tension between Odom and Griffin.
  • Clipper perimeter players. With Eric Gordon out, the shooting percentages of the Clippers perimeter players look like this: Randy Foye 37%, Eric Bledsoe 41%, Rasual Butler 32%, Al Farouq Aminu 40%, Ryan Gomes 42%, Brian Cook 41%. Which means that Blake Griffin can expect to be triple teamed all night long.
  • Lakers perimeter defenders. The shame of it is that the Lakers perimeter defense has been suspect this season. Fisher simply doesn't have the lateral quickness to stay in front of people anymore, Ron Artest has seemingly lost interest in playing tough D, and that leaves Kobe, who prefers to reserve his energy for the offensive end. But given who the Clippers will have out there, the Lakers could probably ignore the perimeter completely and do just fine.
  • All Stars. The two kings of All Star Weekend were undoubtedly Kobe and Blake. Griffin participated in the three biggest events of the weekend, the first player in the history of the NBA to do so, and was victorious in all three of his endeavors, including the premier Saturday victory in the Slam Dunk contest. Bryant meanwhile demonstrated that he is still among the elite scorers in the league, winning a fourth All Star Game MVP award on Sunday.
  • Laker fans and Griffin. It will be interesting to see how Laker fans react to Griffin. He's here in LA, they see plenty of him on TV, we know that they want him. Will they cheer for him, boo him (maybe because of the Odom incident, or just because)? I don't think they'll chant "M-V-P" while he's shooting free throws.
  • Silver Screen and Roll. I had the opportunity over All Star Weekend to hang with the two main bloggers from SBNation's Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll, Chris Clark and Dexter Fishmore. Both are super bright, terrific bloggers, and great guys. I admire their efforts to create a balanced, intelligent Lakers community in a town a little too full of "LAKERS! WHOOO!" types.
  • Guarding Kobe. With Eric Gordon still out, the job of defending Kobe Bryant is going to fall to Randy Foye at the start of the game. Rasual Butler and Al-Farouq Aminu will probably take turns on him as well, but I think it's safe to say that none of them have much chance of stopping the guy.
  • Note to Bledsoe - Fisher is left-handed. I'm still a little peeved that Eric Bledsoe didn't seem to realize that Derek Fisher was going to go left in the final seconds of the December game.
  • Injury prone center update. The last time these teams met, Andrew Bynum was leading the "Games missed over the past four seasons" contest, with a 120 to 111 edge over Chris Kaman. Since that time, Kaman has overtaken Bynum and now holds a 128 to 121.
  • Griffin. The Lakers haven't seen the best of Blake Griffin yet this season. In the first meeting, he had only 16 points on 17 shots and was somewhat limited by foul trouble. In the second meeting, again limited by foul trouble, he missed 9 of his first 10 shots through almost three full quarters. But he finished strong, making 6 of his final 10 shots and proving that he can handle the Lakers length. No team in the NBA has kept Griffin down for long, and I don't expect the Lakers to be the first. Look for Blake to go off in this game.
  • 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 will need to have a big game on the defensive end today, blocking and altering shots without getting into foul trouble.
  • Superstar for one game: Steve Blake. 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?
  • Famous Quotation:

    The great fact in life, the always possible escape from dullness, was the lake. The sun rose out of it, the day began there; it was like an open door that nobody could shut. The land and all its dreariness could never close in on you. You had only to look at the lake, and you knew you would soon be free.
    Willa Cather. The Professor's House
  • Get the Lakers perspective at Silver Screen and Roll.