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Clippers-Lakers Preview: Twice As Nice

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With two games in three days, the question isn't will the Clippers win, it's how much will they win by?

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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vs
Lakers logo
51-26

20-55
April 5th, 2015, 6:30 PM
STAPLES Center (Purple and Gold Trim)
Prime Ticket, NBATV, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
19-11 East 12-18
32-15 West 8-37
27-11 Home 11-26
24-15 Road 9-29
21-22 .500+ 7-39
30-4 .500- 13-16
9-1 L10 3-7
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jeremy Lin
J.J. Redick SG Jordan Clarkson
Matt Barnes SF Wesley Johnson
Blake Griffin PF Ryan Kelly
DeAndre Jordan C Tarik Black
Advanced Stats
97.02 (10th of 30) Pace 96.31 (14th of 30)
109.9 (1st of 30) ORtg 100.9 (22nd of 30)
103.4(18th of 30) DRtg 107.4 (28th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Jamal Crawford (calf) doubtful
Kobe Bryant (shoulder) out for season


Julius Randle (broken leg) out for season


Wayne Ellington (shoulder) out for season


Nick Young (kneecap) out

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 2-0):

Date Venue Final

10/31/14 Lakers home Clippers 118, Lakers 111 Recap Box
1/7/15 Clippers home Clippers 114, Lakers 89 Recap Box
4/5/15 Lakers home Tonight

4/7/15 Clippers home


The Big Picture:

With just five games remaining, this two-in-three-day set against their home court cohabitants is just a tune-up for one last pre-playoff Western Conference clash against Memphis next Saturday. The Clippers have beaten their nearest rivals in five straight, with an average margin of victory of 27.8 points. There's not a lot of drama left in these games. That the Clippers played last night in Denver might give you pause, but if ever there was a team that even this Clipper bench could beat, it would be these Lakers. So sit back with eggs in hand and Easter dinner in your belly, and enjoy this lopsided era of Los Angeles basketball.

The Antagonist:

One might confuse the Lakers for the NBDL D-Fenders, or for a dais of "unknown" comedians like Shaquille O'Neal did, given the state of this threadbare roster. As any rebuilding franchise should, this organization has employed a throw-it-all-at-the-wall approach to teambuilding, hoping that one or two players will stick around for the Lakers' next successful iteration. Head Coach Byron Scott has written 12 names into the starting lineup this season, and the by-product of that shuffling is a March-April run with just four wins, all coming over other lottery teams (Detroit, Minnesota, and Philadelphia twice). Occasionally, like on opening night of the 2013-2014 season, this squad can muster enough energy and outside shooting to put a scare into the Clippers, but, angling for a draft pick that could be shipped off with a finish outside the league's bottom-five, would they even want to?

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. I should title this section schadenfreude. Let's pile on, because it's fun, and because we can. The Clippers are 1st in offensive efficiency, the Lakers are 22nd. The Clippers are 18th in defensive efficiency, the Lakers are 28th. The Clippers are 2nd in that differential, the Lakers are 27th. The Clippers outrank the Lakers by 24 spots in effective FG% and True Shooting %, and by 19 spots in Assist %. Pick a number, any number, and the Clippers likely best the Lakers. Add it all up and it spells S-M-A-C-K-D-O-W-N. Or H-A-H-A.
  • The schedule. Two tilts against the Lakers, one tonight and one on Tuesday. Then, it's three full days off before a game with big-time playoff-seeding implications against the Grizzlies on Saturday night. Ignoring tonight's road designation, the Clippers travel just once in their last five, finishing the regular season in Phoenix.
  • Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers should just call their second-round pick The Silver Lining. If they lose their lottery pick, Clarkson might be the only good thing to come out of this season. How good is he? Well, he was just named Western Conference Rookie of the Month. A superficial look at his numbers (nearly 17/5/5 per 36 minutes with a 16.86 PER) has prompted some to compare him to Portland's Damian Lillard. In this writer's eyes, he doesn't have Lillard's offensive upside because he looks unwilling to push beyond the safe play -- he's something of a fully-formed offensive product, even at 22 years of age. (John Hollinger used to write about this somewhat counter-intuitive phenomenon, that a high turnover rate is a strong indicator of future success. Players play more intelligently as they age, but rarely do they play more aggressively.) But with his long 6'5" frame, Clarkson has superior defensive potential to Lillard, once (or if) the Lakers can stop relying on him to create all of their offense. He may top out as a solid starting guard, or even as a very good third guard, but Clarkson's rookie campaign has been worth a watch.
  • Home court disadvantage. As Jul wrote earlier this week, the relative lack of home crowd support has been a topic of much consternation among some Clippers this season. Bill Plaschke's column from Thursday discusses Clipper fans who are selling more seats in the secondary market as ticket prices rise. Tonight is a Laker home game, but expect plenty of purple and gold in the house for the Clippers' turn Tuesday, even during this abysmal Laker season.
  • Formula for a Laker win. Frankly, I can't find one. The Lakers don't shoot the three, David's best weapon against Goliath, either prolifically or effectively. They don't force turnovers. They draw free throws at just an average rate. They rack up 2nd-chance points at a high rate, but overall, they're a middling team on the offensive boards. The Lakers certainly can win, but if they do, it won't likely be due to anything they did. The Clippers will just have to suck.
  • Connections. Steve covered these previously... Injured Laker Nick Young played a half-season for the Clippers during the 2011-2012 season... Clippers' starting forward Matt Barnes played two seasons for the Lakers... Lakers coach Byron Scott was originally drafted by the Clippers, but was traded to the Lakers in exchange for Norm Nixon in a multi-player trade before putting on the red, white, and blue... Got any more? Put 'em in the comments.
  • Wikipedia definition: We're already running out of people or things named "Laker", so here's James "Jim" Laker, a 1950's English cricketeer. Side rant: not to offend our international readers, but how can you watch cricket? In baseball, teams alternate for nine innings. In cricket, one team bats, then the other team bats, then it's over, only this takes between eight hours and several days. Watching a cricket match is like, "They scored 342 runs! I hope we score 343 runs these next two days!" Color me bewildered.