Los Angeles Clippers (-10) at Los Angeles Lakers
Projected Starting Lineups:
LAC: Chris Paul – J.J. Redick – Jared Dudley – Blake Griffin – Deandre Jordan
LAL: Steve Nash – Steve Blake – Nick Young - Shawne Williams – Pau Gasol
A Los Angeles team is expected to contend for a championship. The other is expected to be a lottery team.
This setup sounds awfully similar as it has been the case for the past 13 seasons. Except the tables are turned. Instead of the Lakers contending to add a banner, the shoe is on the Clippers foot this season.
You could argue the Clippers being a contender before but anyone would tell you that goal was impossible as long as Vinny Del Negro was the head coach. Well he’s out and 2008 NBA champion Doc Rivers is in. No more relying on Chris Paul to do everything. No more defensive responsibility. Rivers changes those things and the culture surrounding the team. Bloggers, beat writers, and pundits alike think he’s the missing piece to what was an underachieving team and if he lives up to the billing LAC could be playing come June.
On the other side the worst has happened. Dwight Howard is in Houston. Metta World Peace is in New York. Kobe Bryant is currently sidelined because of his achilles. And Mike D’Antoni is still the head coach. Instead the hopes of this storied franchise are in the hands of one-year contract castoffs such as Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman. Long story short, it’s going to be a looong season for Laker fans.
With the talent disparity between the two clubs being clear as day, expect the Clippers success against the Lakers to reflect last seasons: a series sweep (maybe Kobe Bryant can get LAL one game, but father time and health isn’t exactly on his side at the moment).
Four Quick Thoughts
1. DeAndre Jordan’s First Big Test
All the hype in the preseason has surrounded DeAndre Jordan. Defensively he was a monster. Jordan blocked shots, forced defenders to second guess themselves as they entered the paint and kept his teammates in-line as the vocal leader. Call it the Doc Rivers effect. But in the preseason, everything must be taken with a grain of salt. This tweet sums it all up for DAJ:
Doc on @deandrejordan in 4th quarter. “If he’s as good as he was during the preseason..it will make it impossible to take him off the floor”
— Eric Patten (@EricPatten) October 30, 2013
Now we’ll see if all of that work translates in the regular season as his first test will be Pau Gasol. When healthy (and playing the center position), Pau is one of the best big men in the NBA. He can kill you on the block or from 15-feet. This is the perfect test as Jordan goal is to convince everyone he isn’t a liability on a defensive team.
2. Clippers Backcourt vs. Lakers Backcourt
Blake Griffin being put up against Shawne Williams may be the biggest mismatch he comes across all season. But I think the Clippers backcourt versus the Lakers is more important to pay attention to. Between Nash and Blake, who draws the assignment of guarding Chris Paul. Blake seems like the likely option, but that means Nash will have to chase Redick through a bevy of screens for extended minutes. Nash’s body can’t take that type of badgering this early in the season. Whoever Nash is guarding, expect Rivers to attack that mismatch.
3. The Gang is All Here
During the preseason, Clippers players suffered several injuries disallowing the team to develop chemistry. According to Doc Rivers, all players minus Maalik Wayns will be available for action. This will give us a good look at how Rivers will dictate his rotation for the ensuing season.
This will be an ongoing theme throughout the season as Byron Mullens is known for piling up shots without the results being pretty. In the preseason Mullens averaged 8.3 points per game. But in a very Mullens-y way, he averaged those points on 8.2 shots per game and a pedestrian 34 percent from three. I’m predicting a 9 points 2-11 performance tonight.
If you’re a betting person, go with the spread. This Lakers team isn’t good and won’t be all season. This game shouldn’t be close. Clippers by 15