The Lakers are finally done with their longest road trip of the season. During the road trip, the purple and gold only managed to win one of the seven games. Things don’t get easier for Luke Walton’s team who have a Christmas Day matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers have the fourth-best record in the NBA, but Doc Rivers’ squad has hit a bit of a rough patch as of late with injuries to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The Clippers have dealt with injuries to their star players pretty well previously. When Griffin went out with a torn quad and a broken hand last year, the Clips were able to go 30-15 in his absence and the Clippers were able to pull out a win against San Antonio Spurs Thursday night without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers and Clippers hope to prove to Los Angeles fans that they have what it takes. For the Clippers they are proving that their team is more than just their stars and for the Lakers, it is to prove they are closer to the team that went 10-10 and not the team that has gone 1-6 on their last road trip.
Chris Paul has been a mainstay for the Los Angeles Clippers since he was traded there in 2011. Paul is averaging 17.6 points and 9.6 assists. Paul is key to the Clippers future success, being the floor general and being a top tier defender. The Clippers point guard’s hamstring kept him out of the last game against the Dallas Mavericks and he is listed as questionable. If he does play against the Lakers he will still be able to cause problems for the Lakers backcourt.
Their starting shooting guard for the Clippers is JJ Redick. The Former Duke Star is averaging 15.2 points and is shooting 44.4% from behind the three-point line. Redick gives hope to players like Nick Young, who are just seen as three-point shooters, Redick has carved out an important role with the Clippers and is a favorite player among analytic lovers. Redick still shares some of his backcourt responsibilities with Jamal Crawford.
Crawford has won the sixth man of the year award so many times that they might have to name the award after him. The Clippers sixth man is averaging 12.2 points in 25.3 minutes. Crawford can take over any game and can do it within the Clippers offense, or he can do it by playing one on one with your teams best defender in his face. The Lakers need to keep Crawford in check, especially with the Clippers dealing with injuries.
D’Angelo Russell needs to help the Lakers get back on track by being a floor general like his Clipper counterpart. Russell was able to provide a spark starting off both halves in Orlando but couldn’t stop the Magic from pulling away. Russell needs to focus on keeping this young Lakers team from moving the ball and not relying on isolation late in games.
Nick Young has been a surprise for the Lakers this season but didn’t have a good showing in Orlando. Young was only able to score five points and shot 28.6% from the field. Swaggy P needs to show up on both ends of the floor if the Lakers want a fighter’s chance in this game. Young will be matched up with JJ Redick who can get hot from behind the arc, so Young will be given the task to keep him in check while being asked to light it up on the other end.
Jordan Clarkson has been up and down this season, but towards the end of the road trip has shown some signs of life. Against the Magic had 18 points, five rebounds and two assists. Hopefully, the former second round pick can provide a spark against the Clippers today.
DeAndre Jordan is a big reason that the Clippers can stay on track even with the injury to Griffin. Jordan is averaging 13.0 rebounds and 11.6 points this season and provides a problem for every team in the league, but with the Lakers having some frontcourt issues he becomes an even scarier player. Jordan is going to be too fast and athletic for Timofey Mozgov, but still too powerful for players like Thomas Robinson and Julius Randle. The Lakers will have to do their best getting Jordan to areas where he is uncomfortable, like the free throw like and ten feet away from the basket.
Luc Mbah a Moute slides over to the power forward spot in Griffin’s absence with Paul Pierce moving into the starting lineup. Mbah a Moute is averaging 6.3 points and 2.4 assists but his main role is as a defender. The Former UCLA Bruin will be matched up with Julius Randle today. Mbah a Moute will not make life easy for Randle, but still will not be able to match up physically to Randle.
Julius Randle missed the last couple of games to be present for the birth of his child. Randle’s playmaking, energy, and physicality were missed against the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. The former Kentucky Wildcat is matched up against a savvy defender in Mbah a Moute, but still should be able to overpower him in any given situation. The Lakers hope Randle can be a major part of their offense against the Clippers.
Mozgov will be hard pressed to keep DeAndre Jordan in check and not allow him to come off pick and rolls clean. If Jordan is able to come off the pick and rolls clean and serve up those devastating dunks, the Lakers will have a sad Christmas.
Keys To Victory:
Play Four Quarters of Basketball:
This has been the biggest problem for the Lakers this season. During their seven-game road trip the Lakers were able to get off to great starts, but would allow teams to pull away in the third quarter. This problem is going to show up in young teams, so don’t expect this problem to go away anytime soon.
Get Out In Transition:
The Lakers are at their best when they get out in transition and score fast break points. When the Lakers are getting out in transition it is usually because they are playing good defense and getting their hands in the passing lanes. Also, when the Lakers get out in transition their ball movement increases and when the Lakers move the ball more, they win more.
Don’t Allow DeAndre Jordan to Take Over:
The Lakers cannot allow DeAndre Jordan to get clean looks at the basket and allow him to swat away all the Lakers attempts at the basket. The quieter DeAndre Jordan is the better things will be going for the Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-22) Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (22-9)
7:30 P.M. PST, December 25, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: JJ Redick
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Luc Mbah a Moute
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Marreese Speights
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Brandon Ingram, Thomas Robinson, Ivica Zubac