The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a lopsided 134-94 loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Julius Randle was the only bright spot as he finished with 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists. The Lakers were simply outplayed by a better team. Today they face the Los Angeles Clippers, who will have Chris Paul back after missing their first meeting on Christmas night.
The Clippers are riding a five-game winning streak, including a 105-96 victory over the Orlando Magic also on Wednesday night. Since Paul returned from injury, the Clippers have been a totally different team, similar to the one that started the season. They hope to continue their dominance over their cross-town rival.
The Clippers backcourt is held down by Chris Paul and Austin Rivers. Paul is considered one of the best point guards in the league for a reason. The way he takes control of the offense is remarkable. It is no secret that when he is not on the floor, the Clippers have a much tougher time getting high percentage shots. He is vital to their success as a team, so the Lakers must communicate well on the defensive end so that Paul is not able to exploit them frequently.
Rivers’ forte is his ability to get into the paint and create for his teammates. He currently averages 10.8 points per game, but is certainly capable of scoring more than that. If he can get going offensively, the Lakers will be in some trouble
Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton provide depth off the bench for the Clippers. Between the two of them, Crawford is superior offensively and has the uncanny ability to drop 30-plus points in any game. If the Lakers want to get a win today, they must make sure Crawford does not explode offensively.
Felton is capable of running the offense for the Clippers when Paul is on the bench. He must be accounted for as he has played particularly well against the Lakers in recent meetings.
D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young are the backcourt starters for the Lakers. After playing well to begin the new year, Russell has had back-to-back single digit outings. He is such an important player for the team that when he is not playing to his potential, it becomes very difficult for the Lakers to score. When he squares off against Paul today, he must find it within himself to play hard every single minute he is on the floor.
Young is currently in a shooting slump. He has not scored more than eight points in the last four games. His shooting is vital to the Lakers success because when he is scoring the ball, the Lakers become a better balanced team. He will have his hands full today as he will likely draw the task of guarding either Paul or Redick and neither is an easy job. Hopefully he regains his shooting touch today because the Lakers will need it.
Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson are still the leaders of the bench. Both provide instant offense and are capable of distributing the ball. In the first meeting against the Clippers, both played well and will be counted on to do the same today.
Thanks to the injury to Blake Griffin, the Clippers frontcourt is held down by DeAndre Jordan, Luc Mbah a Moute, and J.J. Redick. Redick started off red hot during their first meeting against the Lakers but suffered an injury in the second-half and never returned to the ball game. He has always played well against the Lakers as he usually gets the Clippers offense going early and ride his hot shooting until he cools down.
What makes him such a threat is his superior accuracy shooting the ball, especially from behind the arc. He currently is shooting 43.7 percent from that range. Whoever is guarding him must make sure not to leave him with any space to get a good shot off.
Both Jordan and Mbah a Moute are not known for the offensive abilities, but thrive on the defensive end. Jordan usually gets most of his points on offensive putbacks and lob passes from Paul. Timofey Mozgov did a fantastic job of minimizing Jordan’s impact on Christmas night and he must do the same today for the Lakers to come out victorious.
Wesley Johnson and Marreese Speights give the Clippers some toughness off the bench. Johnson should not give any real threat to the Lakers, but that is not to say he can not hit an open jumper. The reason why he is on the floor for the Clippers is his energy and defensive play. Speights is a bruiser who can bully any opponent on the floor. He is capable of knocking midrange and three-point shots so the Lakers must be aware if where he is at on the floor.
The trio of Mozgov, Julius Randle, and Luol Deng is formidable. Randle has been the best of the bunch as he is averaging 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. It is pretty simple; when Randle plays well, the Lakers play well. His ability to score from about anywhere on the court and create shots for others is a huge plus that the Lakers must try and take advantage of.
Mozgov and Deng were brought in too bring stability to the Lakers, and while their play has been inconsistent for most of the season, they give the Lakers some veteran leadership. When both are in an offensive rhythm and knocking down shots, the Lakers are capable of competing with anybody in the league. Against a team like the Clippers, they will need to play close to what Lakers fans had hoped when they were signed over the summer.
Brandon Ingram, Tarik Black, and Thomas Robinson are the Lakers depth off the bench. Ingram has increased his level of play as of late and it has boosted his confidence. After struggling to shoot the ball at the beginning of the season, he has scored in double-digits in four of the past five games. Black and Robinson use their energy and toughness to make their impact in a game. Their main jobs today is to defend and rebound and if they can do that, the Lakers have good shot of winning this game.
3 Keys To Victory:
Defend The Three
The Clippers are one of the better three-point shooting teams in the NBA. They current shoot 37.6 percent from that distance, which is seventh-best. Redick, Crawford, and Paul are all capable of shooting lights out, so the Lakers must sure no role players explode offensively.
Rebound The Ball
It is no secret that DeAndre Jordan is one of the best rebounders in the league. Mozgov must use use his fundamentals and box out every time the ball goes up. The same goes for Randle, he must use his size and strength to rebound that ball and get the offense rolling.
Do Not Turn The Ball Over
The last thing the Lakers want to do is cough the ball up against the Clippers. Paul, Rivers, and Crawford will have a field day if the Lakers start turning the ball over. The Lakers ball handlers must make sure they do a great job of protecting the ball because if not it might be a long day for the Purple and Gold.
Los Angeles Lakers (15-28) vs Los Angeles Clippers (27-14)
12:30 P.M. PST, January 14th, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Austin Rivers
SF: J.J. Redick
PF: Luc Mbah a Moute
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights, Wesley Johnson
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Tarik Black, Thomas Robinson