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Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center (Purple and Gold Trim)
March 25th, 2011, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Mo Williams
PG Derek Fisher
Eric Gordon SG Kobe Bryant
Ryan Gomes
SF Ron Artest
Blake Griffin
PF Pau Gasol
Chris Kaman
C Andrew Bynum

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have not looked particularly sharp lately. Nonetheless, they continue to play .500 ball since the time they were 5-21 way back in mid December. That's three full months and 46 games of .500 play, which isn't great, but is a lot better than anything else Clipper fans have seen in the last four years. Since they last met the Lakers exactly four weeks ago, they are 7-7 - which seems strange to say, since it certainly doesn't feel like they've played very well. They do at least seem to play to the level of their competition frequently - they beat Boston in Boston two weeks ago and have beaten every NBA Division leader this season - so maybe they'll step up and give the Lakers a game tonight. They don't seem to have any reason to fear the Lakers - they should have won the first meeting, and then did win the second one. They lost the most recent game, but they were missing their starting backcourt in that one. In fact, the Clippers have not been at full strength against the Lakers this season, but if DeAndre Jordan can play, then that will change tonight as the Clippers will have all their players available. If Jordan can't play or is limited, he will be sorely missed against the length of the Lakers. The real question is how will Blake Griffin play? He had a monster game in the win over Washington Wednesday (his first really big game in a long while), recording his first career triple double. But that was Washington - these are the Lakers. Griffin played 51 minutes in that contest, and if he was anywhere near the rookie wall before, he must be at least scraping it now. Griffin has struggled against the Lakers this season - he's made only 36% of his shots against them - but he also came up big down the stretch in the lone Clipper win, so he knows he can overcome them. Eric Gordon on the other hand has been great against the Champs, averaging 27 points and shooting 62% in the two games he played in.

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 in 14 games since the break, they've lost only once, and have won their last five, so it seems like maybe those concerns weren't really justified. The Lakers don't much care how they're playing in January or February - heck, I'm not sure the care that much about March, although they're lighting it up. They care about April and May and June. They're not exactly dominating their opponents right now - 5 point win over Dallas, 8 points over Minnesota, 4 points over Portland, triple overtime against the Suns are among the five straight they've won - but they keep putting W's up. The Lakers remain a supremely talented team - what else can you say about a team that brings Lamar Odom off the bench, has former All Star Ron Artest as a role player, and has Andrew Bynum just beginning to realize his potential? Add those three and a pretty nice bench to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, probably the best inside-outside tandem in the league, and you're going to win a lot of games - which the Lakers do. The Lakers have plenty to play for in their final eleven regular season games. They're not going to catch San Antonio for the best overall record (the Spurs have a six game lead at this point), but they already passed Dallas for the second best record in the West, and the Mavs, Lakers, Bulls, Celtics and Heat all have between 49 and 51 wins. So the Lakers are still fighting for home court advantage against potential opponents in the Western Conference Semi-finals and the NBA Finals.

The Subplots

  • Ushers working overtime. The Staples Center ushers have been generating a little overtime pay this week. The Lakers won in triple overtime against the Suns on Tuesday night; less than 24 hours late, the Clippers beat Washington in double overtime; then Thursday night the Kings went to a shoot out in their hockey game. Will the Staples Center OT streak continue tonight?
  • What do the Clippers play for? When a team knows it won't make the playoffs, it becomes difficult to play with as much urgency as teams that are still fighting for their seasons. That was obvious against Phoenix last Sunday - the Suns were much more intense and energetic, while the Clippers seemed lost much of the time. Most years, this problem is exacerbated by the NBA draft - namely, teams out of the playoffs not only don't have incentive to play hard, they actually have incentive to NOT play hard. The Clippers traded their pick this year, so at least they don't have that problem. But they have not seemed to have the necessary drive in the last several games. However, playing against the Lakers may be motivation enough - the Clippers have played up to the level of their opponent many times this season, and this isn't just any opponent. This is the Lakers. Hopefully there's plenty of motivation to bring full effort and intensity tonight.
  • Turnovers. The Clippers have been atrocious taking care of the ball all season. In the entire NBA, only Minnesota has turned the ball over more than the Clippers, and they had 25 against Washington on Wednesday. You can turn the ball over 25 points against Washington and still have a chance to win the game (as the Clippers proved); you don't really have that option against the Lakers.
  • Small forward. Coach Vinny Del Negro continues to experiment with small forward options, He's been playing a lot of a three guard lineup, which he also used to good effect late in the Clippers victory over the Lakers. Wednesday against Washington, he also toyed with the rotation of the actual small forwards. Jamario Moon got more minutes than Ryan Gomes on Wednesdady; Moon also got a LOT more time than rookie Al-Farouq Aminu, who played only 5 minutes. It wouldn't bother me to see more of Moon. At least he rebounds, and has the extra benefit of getting the occasional lob or putback dunk.
  • Last meeting. Four weeks ago against the Lakers, playing without their starting backcourt, the Clippers trailed by only two points at halftime, and Kobe Bryant had left the court in pain just before the intermission - so the Clippers had to be feeling pretty good about their chances at that point. But instead of playing a Kobe-less Lakers squad in the second half, Bryant pulled off one of his trademark "play-through-the-pain" moments, and single handedly outscored the Clippers 18-17 in the third (the Lakers won the quarter 33-17). It was one in a long series of horrific third quarters for the Clippers this season, and one in a long series of superhuman feats by Bryant.
  • Blake and Lamar. When these teams met in January, 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. One can only assume that there could be a little tension between Odom and Griffin in this one.
  • Lakers perimeter defenders. On offense, the Clippers may have some matchups they can exploit in the backcourt. Derek Fisher is now 36 years old, with the lateral quickness of a guy about twice that age. Mo Williams should be able to exploit Fisher tonight. Meanwhile, Ron Artest has seemed disinterested several times I've seen him this season.
  • 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, but would it kill them to chant "R-O-Y"?
  • Guarding Kobe. The fact that Bryant exploded in the third quarter of the last meeting may have been due at least in part to the fact that Randy Foye was defending him. With Gordon back tonight, his impact could be felt as much on the defensive end as on offense. Kobe has certainly hurt Gordon in the past, but EJ has also done a good job a couple of different times.
  • Bynum on a tear. Andrew Bynum is averaging 14.5 rebounds per game in 8 games in March. This is a guy averaging 9 rebounds per game on the season. He has 19 career games of 15 rebounds or more - five of them have occurred in the last seven games - and the other two were 14 and 12.
  • 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: Matt Barnes. The former Clipper is back from injury, and had his best performance since returning with 13 points in 20 minutes on Tuesday.
  • Famous Quotation:

    Let thy West Wind sleep on
    The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
    And wash the dusk with silver.
    William Blake, To the Evening Star
  • Get the Lakers perspective at Silver Screen and Roll.