Last time the LA Clippers (21 -37) and LA Lakers (40-19) squared off in Staples Center seems like years ago; on January 16th, The Clippers were surging and the Lakers were scuffling along (hey, terms like “scuffling” are relative; only a team the caliber of the Lakers would have their fanbase panicking while they are currently 40-19), and the results spoke for themselves. The Clips got up big, then held on for a 99-92 victory. Oh how things have changed. Eric Gordon went down with a wrist injury a week later, and the Clips embarked on a nightmarish loss filled journey that leads to today, where they face against their roommates, the LA Lakers. The Lakers struggles continued on after that game, with the nadir being a loss to the piteous Cavaliers. Being the Lakers, though, they never panicked. Kobe looked invigorated while dropping 39 points in the All-Star game, and LA looked sharp down the stretch of their comeback victory over the Portland Trailblazers.
The clippers will HAVE to show more attention to defense if they’re going to have a prayer of slowing down Kobe and Pau. Los Angeles shows patience and assassin’s timing while picking teams apart with the triangle; and when that bogs down, Kobe Bryant is the ultimate pressure release. The return of Chris Kaman and Craig Smith will help take some of the load of clogging the lane. Not letting Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Pau play “volleyball”(getting 2, 3, sometimes 4 tip attempts on the offensive boards) will be vital if the Clippers are going to pull this out.
Randy Foye has been Jekyll and Hyde over the past few weeks; if Foye takes his time, keeps the turnovers down, and is judicious in his shot selection, he can provide the 2nd scorer the Blake will need to keep the defense from sitting in his lap. If Mo Williams was playing at 100%, I’d definitely feel more charitable about the Clippers toppling the Lake Show, but a team missing 40% of it’s starters like the Clips are, without Mo Williams, is starting off behind the 8-ball. I know it sounds like a broken record, but DeAndre’ Jordan must come out of the gate decisive and not chase every shot; the silly fouls that send him to the bench early in games seems to deflate the gym. I’m intrigued about seeing Eric Bledsoe try and duplicate the 14 points and 8 dimes Baron dropped in the victory over LA; Derek Fisher notoriously struggles with speedy guards, and Bledsoe is one of the speediest. It’s been proven that no one man can stop Kobe’ Bryant; let’s hope Vinnie Del Negro tightened up his defensive schemes in preparation. Look for Pau to get more than the 9 shots he got in the last meeting, and Blake Griffin is going to have to do better than 7-20 for 18 points to make up for the 30 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals missing with Gordon out.