Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: Hallway Rivalry Continued

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles ClippersThe Lakers have lost their last three games and are looking for a win against their hallway rivals tonight. The Lakers and Clippers franchises have seemingly gone in opposite directions in recent years. Historically the Lakers have been a perennial championship contender while the Clippers have been NBA basement dwellers. The roles are switched now and the Clippers look to be a legit contender this year while the Lakers look to be headed towards the lottery. That being said, anything can happen in rivalry games and hopefully the Lakers will put forth their best effort tonight.

Frontcourt: Blake Griffin is the leading scorer for the Clippers and he’s an athletic beast in the post. He may not have a bunch of low post moves, but he makes up for that with his sheer leaping ability. Just ask Kris Humphries or Timofey Mozgov. Griffin has chipped in 22 points and 10 boards per contest this season. He’s also making a career high 70% of his free throws which makes fouling him more of a gamble.

DeAndre Jordan is having a career year and is excelling at the things he does best: rebounding and shot blocking. Jordan is averaging 13.5 boards and 2.4 blocks per game under Doc Rivers’ tutelage. Although he remains a raw offensive player, he doesn’t really need to contribute on that end of the floor since the Clippers possess so much fire power.

Backcourt: The Clippers have a point guard injury issue although it is not as severe as the Lakers who are essentially down to their fourth string. Chris Paul has missed significant time due to a grade-3 shoulder separation. Darren Collison has filled in admirably for him and while passing doesn’t come as naturally for him, he sure can score. Marshall will have to be quick on his feet in order to keep up with the ever speedy Collison.

Starting shooting guard Jamal Crawford is a dangerous scorer who can put up points in a hurry. Think of him as a more skilled version of Nick Young. Crawford is the team’s third leading scorer with nearly 17 points per game. He’s also a capable passer and has recorded 21 assists in his last three games. Jodie Meeks will have his hands full guarding Crawford.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Defense: I know it sounds conservative and silly given that the Mike D’Antoni Lakers are a team constructed to outscore opponents rather than defend them, but the Lakers really need to pick up their defense. The Lakers have allowed their last three opponents to score over 110 points per game. Given the Lakers lack of depth, it’s unlikely that they can keep up with the Clippers if they simply try to outscore them. In order to win they’ll need to give a concerted effort on defense.

Team Chemistry: It’s hard for the Lakers to build chemistry when their players keep getting injured. Playing time hasn’t been consistent and there isn’t a clear rotation of players on the court. Shawne Williams was surprisingly waived on Tuesday even though he was a starter for the Lakers early on in the season. Kendall Marshall was called up from the D-League after the Lakers lost their three point guards due to injury. Kobe hasn’t been able to get healthy yet this year and Pau Gasol has been inconsistent at best. It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least and the Lakers can’t seem to catch a break. The one great thing that made this years team fun to watch early on in the season was their team chemistry. They will need to recapture that magic and play team basketball if they hope to steal some wins against more talented teams at this point in the season.

Los Angeles Lakers (14-22) at Los Angeles Clippers (25-13)
7:30 PM PST, January 9, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN, ESPN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Clippers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Jamal Crawford
SF: Jared Dudley
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan

Key Reserves: SF: Matt Barnes SG: Willie Green PF: Antawn Jamison

Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wes Johnson
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Robert Sacre

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VIDEO: Wes Johnson Says Team Stays Together Through Positivity And Good Humor, Discusses Waiving Shawne Williams

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