In a bit of a coincidence, the Los Angeles Lakers end their preseason against the same team they will open up the regular season with, their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers.
Both teams look very different from a year ago as the Clippers no longer have mainstays Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford. The Lakers of course, have also made plenty of additions though one of the biggest, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, will miss his fourth straight preseason game.
The Lakers had a solid showing in their most recent preseason outing, playing the Utah Jazz down to the wire before faltering down the stretch to fall to 1-4. The Clippers come into the game with a 2-2 preseason record following a 17-point victory over the Sacramento Kings.
With Lonzo out once again, Tyler Ennis will resume his starting role where he has been a solid performer so far. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a mainstay at the starting shooting guard spot where he has been an impressive defender but has yet to find his range offensively, shooting just 34.1 percent.
Jordan Clarkson has had a quietly solid preseason so far, averaging 12.4 points off the bench for the Lakers. Alex Caruso is coming off an impressive 10 assist performance against the Jazz and has caught the eye of the coaching staff.
Additionally, with this being the final preseason game, both Vander Blue and Briante Weber should get a chance to show what they can do before final cuts are made. Either making the team seems unlikely as Andrew Bogut seems locked into the final roster spot despite not playing this preseason.
The Clippers have also been dealing with some injury issues as both Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers missed the last preseason game and aren’t expected to play tonight either. In their place is familiar face Lou Williams and rookie Milos Teodosic, a passing wizard who many believed was the best player not in the NBA for years.
Caldwell-Pope will likely draw the assignment of trying to contain Williams, one of the league’s best pure scorers who lives at the free throw line. The Lakers’ effort on defense has improved, but they have had issues with fouls and Williams will feast on that if given the opportunity.
Brook Lopez has shown the immediate dividends of his presence as he has shown both his three-point range and post moves, while remaining a presence at the rim on defense.
This is the perfect compliment to Larry Nance Jr. who, despite his best performance of the preseason against Utah, still lacks offensive aggression. He has, however, kept up his defensive impact, by deflecting passes, altering shots, and rebounding.
For three quarters on Tuesday, Brandon Ingram finally began to look like the improved player he had been talked up as. Unfortunately, he began forcing again down the stretch. Still averaging only 9.3 points on 31 percent shooting, Ingram will again look to turn things around and has a great matchup to do just that.
Kyle Kuzma continues to grow his legend this preseason as he once again led the Lakers in scoring against the Jazz. He is now averaging 19.2 points on 56.3 percent shooting. Julius Randle has shown flashes of improvement, but has also had moments where he has shown the same issues of years past.
The Clippers frontcourt looks familiar as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still hold down the fort.
Griffin doesn’t do quite as much high-flying, but is one of the best playmaking big men in the NBA and this offense will run through him. He has improved his jumper and is a great passer. Nance will have to work hard to contain him.
Speaking of containing, the Lakers must find a way to keep Jordan off the glass, particularly the offensive glass where he makes his living. Jordan still isn’t much of an offensive weapon, but can be a force on the glass and altering shots at the rim if the Lakers don’t get a body on him.
Both Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker have dealt with injuries recently which has led to another former Laker, Wesley Johnson, starting. Additionally, the Clippers have a pair of strong, athletic bigs in Brice Johnson and Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench.
Three Keys To Victory
Control the Glass: In Jordan, Griffin, Harrell, and Johnson the Clippers have a bunch of bigs who are physical and can thrive in the paint. The Lakers have looked better on defense, but they can’t afford to allow these bigs to live on the glass and create extra opportunities.
Ingram’s Improvement: If the Lakers are going to take a leap forward, much of that will come on the shoulders of Brandon Ingram. He has forced the issue too much this preseason, but has a favorable matchup against the Clippers wings. He must take advantage.
Find Your Range From Deep: The Lakers have had no problem hoisting up three, but they are falling at a terrible rate. Only two players are shooting better than 35 percent from deep: Brook Lopez and Luol Deng. Without Lonzo on the floor the Lakers must do better at creating, and knocking down, open looks.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-4) Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (2-2)
7:30 P.M. PST, October 13, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Tv: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Linuep:
PG: Milos Teodosic
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Monztrezl Harrell, Brice Johnson, Jawun Evans
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ennis
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Corey Brewer, Alex Caruso