Pre-Game Report: Lakers Look to Rebound Against Rejuvenated Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) at Los Angeles Clippers (1-0)
7:30 PM PST, December 21, 2011
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN

Clippers Projected Starting Line-up:

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Chauncey Billups
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan

Key Reserves: Trey Thompkins, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams

After the new-look Los Angeles Clippers ran away from the traditionally powerhouse Lakers on Monday night the two teams are back to try it one more time before the regular season kicks off on Sunday. The last two days have been strange for the Lakers and their fans, as they have had to listen to reports that they may not be the best team in Los Angeles any longer. Still, they have only played one game and have a chance to quiet some of those critics tonight.

One of the main problems for the Lakers on Monday was their defense, particularly closing out on 3-point shooters. Guard Chauncey Billups torched the Lakers from outside, scoring 23 points to lead the Clippers. Their other new guard, Chris Paul, also had a strong debut. Paul scored 17 points while collecting seven rebounds and dishing out nine assists.

The Lakers didn’t have many bright spots, leaving them plenty to work on Wednesday night. While Kobe Bryant looked aggressive and eager to attack on Monday, it did end up costing him in the form of a sprained wrist he suffered after a collision trying to attack the basket. While Bryant is expected to play Wednesday night, it’s certainly discouraging to see Bryant suffering from an injury already.

Success for the Lakers tonight will ride on the broad shoulders of their two big men – Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. While both played decent on Monday night, the Lakers are going to need much more from their twin towers if they want to be taken as serious contenders this season. Bynum scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, but at times seemed tentative against the physical play of the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. Gasol added 16 and seven, but had trouble finding any sort of rhythm on the offensive end.

While the Lakers have been adamant on their refusal to trade both Bynum and Gasol for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, if they both struggle again tonight those questions will become even more pressing. It’s up to both players to perform well and silence the trade rumors.

Another interesting area of observation for the Lakers will be the play of rookie Darius Morris. While Derek Fisher is expected to start after sitting out on Monday, Morris still may have a chance to earn himself a roster spot after his strong performance in the Monday loss. Morris looked shaky and indecisive, but displayed a significant amount of confidence, scoring 11 points in the game. With the Lakers already short at the point guard position, Morris has a chance to make an even stronger impact in tonight’s game.

Overall the Lakers will look to improve as a team in their second pre-season game. While the defense was certainly sub-par, the offense wasn’t impressive either. The team struggled with post-entry passes, which in turn took away their biggest asset, their size. With Fisher expected back in the lineup tonight look for more of an emphasis on establishing Gasol and Bynum in the post.

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