The Los Angeles Lakers had high hopes coming into the season, but the Los Angeles Clippers quickly brought them to a halt. The final difference of 16 points does not do the game justice as the Clippers dominated the Lakers from the outset on opening night in a game that was never close.
Now after a few days off during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Lakers return to the court looking to repay the favor to their crosstown rivals. This time, things are much different on both sides.
After a great start to the season the Clippers have fallen way down. They have won their last two games, but lost nine straight prior to that and are dealing with major injuries in their backcourt.
The Lakers are coming off an uninspiring loss to the Sacramento Kings and are looking right the ship. They are also welcoming back starting power forward Larry Nance Jr. from a fractured bone in his hand.
The Clippers went into the season hoping the pair of Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic could help offset the loss of Chris Paul. Now they are with out both as Beverley had knee surgery and is is going to miss the remainder of the season, while Teodosic has been dealing with plantar fasciitis and isn’t expected back for another month.
Because of that, the Clippers have been forced to move bench scoring savant Lou Williams into the starting lineup next to Austin Rivers.
The Lakers are very familiar with Williams’ scoring exploits and it would seem likely that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will draw the assignment of containing the Clippers’ second-leading scorer. Not letting Williams go left is much easier said than done.
Rivers is the third-leading scorer on the Clippers and has been more effective from 3-point range than inside the line, so the Lakers must be careful not to let him get hot.
That job will likely fall to Lonzo Ball, who will be looking to build on his solid, but inconsistent start to the season. Even as he struggles to score, Ball can’t let that affect the rest of his game.
Caldwell-Pope’s defense should be his focus on this night, while also staying within his skill set offensively. He has been better when spotting up as opposed to creating his own shots.
The Lakers have a huge advantage off the bench as Jordan Clarkson is the third-leading bench scorer in the league and Josh Hart has looked much more confident since returning from a G League stint.
Conversely, the Clippers will be relying on a pair of rookies in Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are still the faces of the Clippers franchise and key to the success of the team. Next to them is another former Laker in Wesley Johnson.
Griffin is the fulcrum of Clippers’ offense, capable of scoring in any number of ways, while also being one of the best big men passers in the league. He dominated the Lakers on opening night and they must do a better job of containing him in this contest.
Jordan has seen a dip in his scoring numbers thanks to Paul no longer feeding him lobs. Nonetheless he’s still one of the league’s best rebounders and rim protectors who must be accounted for anytime a shot goes up.
Johnson, meanwhile, has really stepped up since moving into the starting lineup for Danilo Gallinari and is shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range.
The Lakers are welcoming back Nance tonight and he will be returning to the starting lineup. His communication and versatility on defense has been missed greatly and he has a great chance to make a big impact immediately by making life hard on Griffin.
Brook Lopez has been inconsistent offensively, having nights where he dominates and others where he makes little impact. The Lakers will need him to be focused as the Clippers aren’t deep so potentially getting Jordan in foul trouble would be huge.
Brandon Ingram will also play a role in that potentially happening as he has been attacking the rim relentlessly as of late. That aggressive mindset must remain, especially with rookie Kyle Kuzma returning to a bench role, thus shifting more of the scoring onus back on Ingram.
Kuzma, along with Julius Randle anchor the Lakers’ bench unit and should have a huge advantage over Montrezl Harrell who gets the majority of reserve big man minutes for the Clippers.
Willie Reed and Sam Dekker should also see spot minutes while veteran Corey Brewer provides energy and defense for the Lakers.
Keys to Lakers Victory
Aggressive Ingram: With Kuzma returning to the bench, Ingram (and Lopez) will be the primary offensive option for the Lakers starters. The team can’t afford another slow start so Ingram will have to be the aggressive player as opposed to the passive one he can sometimes be. His desire to attack the basket will play a big part in our second point.
Foul Trouble: With three players out due to injury, the Clippers don’t have a lot of depth as four of their five starters have played at least 36 minutes in each of the last two games.
Getting a couple of players in foul trouble by attacking and not settling could force the Clippers to play the likes of Dekker, Harrell, and Thornwell more than they would prefer.
Push the Pace: The Lakers are far better when they can get out and run as opposed to playing a half-court game. Getting stops, creating turnovers, and getting out in transition is crucial to a victory, and could also get the Clippers fatigued as the game wears on.
Los Angeles Lakers (8-11) Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (7-11)
7:30 P.M. PST, November 27, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lou Williams
SG: Austin Rivers
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Monztrezl Harrell, Sindarius Thornwell, Sam Dekker, Willie Reed, Jawun Evans
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart
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