Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
April 7, 2013
12:30 p.m. PST
3-Seed Western Conference Standings Check
Denver Nuggets, 53-24
L.A. Clippers, 50-26, 2.5 GB
Memphis Grizzlies, 51-25, 1.5 GB
One more win. The Clippers are one win (or one Warriors loss) away from capturing their first division title in franchise history. How fitting would it be for that win to come against the Lakers, a team that the Clips have defeated in all three matchups this year? But it won’t be easy. Fighting for the 8 seed, the Lakers have won four of five and need this win more than the Clippers do. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. With Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari out, will the Clippers take home court advantage from the Nuggets?
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold, (@forumbluegold): No. While the Clippers’ schedule is definitely easier than the Nuggets down the stretch, making up two full games with just five remaining seems like too much to ask. Three of the Nuggets’ five remaining games are at home and all are against teams who they are either clearly better than (Phoenix, Portland) or ones that are banged up (San Antonio). If Denver sweeps those four games or even wins three of them and tacks on a road win versus either the Bucks or the Mavs (which isn’t farfetched), the Clippers would have to win out to finish with an even record and claim the 3rd seed via the tie-breaker. Even with Lawson and Gallinari out, I think the Nuggets have enough depth on the wing (Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, heavier reliance on Iguodala) to weather the storm in this short stretch and make it too hard on the Clips to catch them.
D.J. Foster, (@fosterdj): Andre Miller and Wilson Chandler aren’t exactly slouches, but the Clippers should be able to retain the “true” 4-seed in the race against Denver. It’s hard to tell how desirable the 3-seed actually is now — Houston or Golden State may be tougher first round matchups for the Clippers, and the Spurs may fall to the 2-seed. The longer the Clippers get to go without playing the Spurs death machine, the better.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Pretty much all the Clippers have going for them is that they own the tie breaker. Even without Lawson and Gallinari, the Nuggets are too good at home. We’re talking dominant. That 35-3 home record didn’t just come out of nowhere. If you assume three home wins, then all Denver has to do is win a road game in either Milwaukee or Dallas to clinch the 3 seed. And that won’t be too hard for them to do.
2. Do the Lakers get the 8 seed in the West?
Soriano: Yes. The Lakers control their own destiny, only play one game away from Staples the rest of the year, and are finally starting to find good symmetry between Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (both offensively and defensively) when they share the floor. That latter point is maybe the most important as it allows the Lakers to maximize their talent and utilize the one advantage they have over most teams (talented size). When you combine those factors with the way Kobe Bryant has been playing – especially in picking up his defense the last few games – I think the Lakers have a formula to win enough games to outlast the Jazz and get in.
Foster: Ugh. I don’t get you, Utah. That trade for Marvin Williams. Sticking with the Millsap/Jefferson combo at the deadline. Ty Corbin playing everyone equal minutes and then handing out Gushers and Capri Suns after the game. The Lakers should have been dead long, long ago, and it’s your fault.
Katz: The Lakers have three things going for them that should make them the favorites to take the 8 seed. 1) They control their own destiny. 2) They have only one more game away from the Staples Center. (Let’s not kid ourselves. This Clippers game is a home game for them.) 3) They aren’t the Jazz.
3. Do the Clippers finish off the season sweep against the Lakers?
Soriano: No. While both teams have a lot to play for, I think the Lakers level of play recently is a bit higher than their co-tenants at Staples and when combined with the motivation to even make the playoffs, that extra incentive will win out. The Clippers have certainly had a rough schedule lately, but losing four of their last six during any stretch signals a certain vulnerability that I think the Lakers can seize upon. I do expect a relatively close game, however, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the game is decided in the final minutes. But, ultimately, I see the Lakers’ bigs winning out over the Clippers’ perimeter game.
Foster: Yes. There’s blood in the water, the Lakers need it badly, and Chris Paul is overdue for a statement game.
Katz: Yes, but Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have to show up on the defensive end of the floor, something that hasn’t really happened of late. If those guys communicate well, protect the rim, and limit Dwight Howard on the boards, the Clippers take it.