The third round in the Battle of Los Angeles takes place tonight as the Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers. The team’s split their first two meetings with the Lakers winning opening night while the Clippers dismantled the Lakers in January.
Both teams have been playing some of their best basketball recently. The Lakers seem to be playing more cohesively, and have won two of their last three games, while the Clippers are hot, with a five game winning streak.
The Clippers come in with a 42-20 record, tops in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference. The Lakers are 21-40 and looking to salvage the remainder of their season.
In Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have the best young big man duo in the NBA. Griffin has evolved into much more than just a dunker, and Jordan’s ability to patrol the paint and alter shots rivals anyone in the league. With the Lakers going small as of late, Wesley Johnson will have the tough task of guarding Griffin. Somehow, Johnson will have to keep Griffin outside the paint and make him settle for jumpers, but Griffin is much stronger than Johnson, making that a difficult proposition.
Pau Gasol must use his footwork and skill on Jordan. He will not be able to simply overpower Jordan on the block, so Gasol will have to use his array of post moves and pump fakes to take Jordan out of position. Jordan is still prone to jumping on fakes, and Gasol should work towards getting him in foul trouble as the Clippers backups are unreliable.
The small forward position presents an interesting match-up as former Laker Matt Barnes will be going against Kent Bazemore. Bazemore has been great offensively since joining the team, but Barnes is extremely physical and can take anyone out of their game. Bazemore must also not lose track of Barnes on defense as he has really improved as a jump shooter, and can kill a team with his slashing ability.
In Chris Paul, the Clippers have the best point guard in the NBA, and a true floor general who makes his teammates better. If the Lakers plan on getting a win, they have to figure out a way to limit Paul’s effectiveness. With J.J. Redick out due to injury, the Clippers have pushed Darren Collison into the starting lineup next to Paul, giving the Clippers two ball-handlers who can get in the paint and finish or dish to the open man.
The Lakers have a bit of a question mark at the point guard spot. Mike D’Antoni indicated that he would consider starting Jordan Farmar in place of Kendall Marshall, in the midst of Marshall’s worst stretch of the season. Farmar would represent a significant upgrade on the defensive end for the Lakers. His speed and athleticism will be needed against a Clippers team sporting two extremely quick point guards, and he has become a leader on this team. Regardless of who starts at point guard, Jodie Meeks will be next to him providing his energy, defense, and three-point shooting. Meeks continues to be the Lakers most consistent offensive weapon, and he will need to have a big game for the Lakers to get the victory.
Keys For A Lakers Victory
Keep The Clippers In Half Court: The Clippers currently rank second in the league in scoring, and are absolutely lethal on the fast break as the Lakers found out in the last meeting. The Clippers posted 25 fast break points and took the Lakers out of the game because of it.
The Lakers have to keep the Clippers in the half court as much as possible, which means they have to do two things. They must make deep shots, and take care of the ball. The Lakers have had issues handling the ball, and with ball hawks like Paul, Barnes, and Collison, every pass the Lakers make has a chance of being picked off. While the Lakers like to run as well, they must do so selectively, as they will not last long if they try to keep up in a track meet with the Clippers.
Feed Gasol The Ball: Pau Gasol has been a man on a mission since returning from injury. In his seven games back, Gasol has averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Facing an imposing, athletic front line, Gasol is the Lakers best chance at getting inside points, and he has the skill to do so. Just as important, both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin (Jordan especially) are susceptible to pump fakes and foul trouble. The biggest weakness on this Clippers team is their lack of backups behind their big men. Glen Davis is just getting his feet wet with the team, and behind him the team’s best options are Ryan Hollins, or going small with Hedo Turkoglu or Jared Dudley. If the Lakers can get Jordan or Griffin off the floor for an extended period, the Clippers will be in trouble.
Strong Point Guard Play: Regardless of who starts, both Jordan Farmar and Kendall Marshall will still see significant minutes in this game, and both need to play well. Defensively, Farmar will stand a much better chance of staying in front of Chris Paul which will be very important for a Lakers victory. Marshall has to get his jump shot to fall again, while keeping up his excellent assist numbers. He must also step up his defense as opposing guards are able to blow by him too easily. Between the two, they must have a complete game, both offensively and defensively, shooting, passing, and defending.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-40) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (42-20)
7:30 PM PST, March 6, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Clippers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Darren Collison
SF: Matt Barnes
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: SF Jared Dudley, SG Willie Green, PF Glen Davis
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall/Jordan Farmar
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Wesley Johnson
C: Pau Gasol
Kobe Bryant’s Message To The Lakers Fans: “Revenge Is Sweet And It’s Quick”