Los Angeles Lakers “at” Los Angeles Clippers
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(Note: According to head coach Vinny Del Negro, Mo Williams is out for tonight’s game with a sore right foot. He’s listed as day-to-day).
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: Chris Paul. As tempting as it is to go with the flash of Blake Griffin or the flair of Kobe Bryant, Paul will be the best player for one simple reason: the Lakers have no answer for him. Derek Fisher can’t keep up and the Lakers have notoriously been burned by elite pick-and-roll teams (as of Jan. 13th, they’re 26th in defending the ball handler and 18th in defending the roll man according to mySynergySports.com). Plus, Paul will clearly be motivated. My darkhorse pick is Andrew Bynum — see preseason game two.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: The best player on the floor will be Pau Gasol. Now, I do not mean he’s the best player playing in this game in terms of every single night/talent/upside/whatever. But DeAndre is going to have to handle Bynum, leaving Blake to cover Pau for most of the game. We might see a lot of open mid-range looks for Pau tonight, and unless he’s having a really off night, that means big success for him.
2. What is each team’s greatest liability?
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: The Clippers’ greatest liability is time or lack thereof. Want a more game-specific answer? Defensive rebounding and defensive rotations. For the Lakers, it’s either defending the pick-and-roll or relying too much on Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum for offense. Besides Pau Gasol, no one else can score. That’s a problem.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: For the Clippers, it’s leadership from the bench. Vinny Del Negro is fortunate to have Paul, Billups and Butler around but at some point they’ll need him to draw up a play or tell Blake to stop complaining to the officials. For the Lakers, it continues to be the all-encompassing dependence on Bryant.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: For the Clippers, greatest weakness is a toss-up between rebounding and overall defense. Against Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, I’m leaning on rebounding being the biggest problem tonight. For the Lakers, the biggest issue is a dependence on isolation-type offense and that offense resulting in a lot of turnovers. The Lakers are currently dead last in the NBA in turnover rate differential (percentage of possessions ending in turnovers/percentage of opponent possessions ending in turnovers).
Jovan Buha, ClipperBlog: The Clippers. As much as the Lakers want to prove they’re undoubtedly L.A.’s team (which they clearly already believe), the Clippers’ lust to quiet the doubters and endanger the Lakers’ throne is even greater. I envision DeAndre Jordan playing better defense on Bynum, the Clips finding a way to make Kobe struggle (as in he’ll get 30-35 points but jack up 25+ shots) and Griffin and Paul pick-and-rolling the Lakers to slow, painful death.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Clippers. The Lakers come in on a five-game winning streak, but at least four of those came against lottery teams and three of them have come in the last four nights. If DeAndre Jordan can stay out of foul trouble guarding Bynum, Clips should win.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: I’m actually going to pick the Clippers here. I think Blake can at least match Pau offense-for-offense, DeAndre Jordan should play better against Bynum than he did in the pre-season, and the bench and point guard battles should also favor the Clippers. If the Lakers keep turning it over, their rebounding advantage won’t be as big of a deal and the Clips could get a lot of easy offense. Containing Kobe is likely the X-factor in regards to who wins this game.