LA Clippers vs. Lakers Christmas Game Preview: Who has the edge?
In another NBA Christmas Day matchup at Staples Center, the LA Clippers take on the young Los Angeles Lakers. Who will come out on top?
This Christmas, the LA Clippers will face the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center for the second year in a row. Both teams share this arena year-round, and even though the Lakers have 16 NBA championship banners hanging from the building’s rafters, the Clippers will look to prove their modern dominance over the Lakers by winning the game. While the Clippers have no championships or Conference titles for their franchise, they do have an 11-game win streak against the Lakers to defend on Christmas day.
This streak and the Clippers’ current record of 22-9, compared to the Lakers’ 11-22, give us reason to believe that the Clippers will grab the win, despite Blake Griffin and possibly Chris Paul (strained hamstring, listed as day-to-day) being out.
With Griffin’s successful arthroscopic right knee surgery, the Clippers now leave their offense almost exclusively in the hands of point guard Chris Paul, although it’s still unclear if he’ll return for Christmas after missing the Clippers’ latest game against the Dallas Mavericks. Without the leading scorer on the team, it’s essentially guaranteed that Paul’s stats will increase once he’s playing (which shouldn’t be long).
Taking into account how many times Paul uses DeAndre Jordan for pick-and-rolls, it’s safe to estimate a climb in Jordan’s production, to. We saw him hit a new career-high of 12.7 points per game last season because of Griffin’s absence.
A Clippers offense with no Griffin means a faster paced approach to the game, with now little to no post-up offense. More ball movement can also be expected with the absence of a primary scorer now in place. Paul Pierce has been chosen to start in Griffin’s spot as of now, playing his last season in the NBA. Having Pierce at the power forward position stretches the floor offensively, but can be a problem when defending, as the 39-year-old cannot possibly keep up with the younger players of the league (so, practically everyone).
Thankfully, Wesley Johnson and Brandon Bass are both effective bigger players and defenders who will be in rotation with Pierce come Christmas day. And, of course, Luc Mbah a Moute‘s defensive presence will remain in the starting lineup.
This Blake-less, pace and space offense will be a problem for the Lakers, who have the 29th ranked defense in the NBA. The Clippers have the 5th ranked offense set to give them trouble, although no Chris Paul would make matters more difficult for ball handlers like Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers.
As for the matchups in this game, the Lakers will have D’Angelo Russell running the show. Lou Williams has been playing great this season, averaging 18.9 points in only 25.2 minutes per game as the team’s leading scorer off the bench. He has the ability to go off on any given night, and already has three 35+ point games this season.
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Other notable scorers on the team include guards Jordan Clarkson (averaging 14.8 points per game), and Nick Young (14.5). Power forward Julius Randle is also impressing, putting up 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. His strong, physical play will cause Pierce some trouble.
This Lakers lineup is much more capable than it was last year. With all due respect to Kobe Bryant, today’s Laker team is completely different, and has improved with a new approach. Luke Walton is now the head coach, and with Kobe retired, the young talent on the team can now embrace greater scorer roles and play in Walton’s more team-based, uptempo system. Unfortunately, young age and that terrible defense has still let them down an awful lot. They’re now 1-9 in their last 10 games.
The Clippers will have to do their homework as they have not played the Lakers since April 6th last season. The new Lakers are looking much different and improved this season, and despite their 11-20 record, they will still show fight against the Clippers on Christmas day, especially if Chris Paul can’t play.
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While we hope and expect the LA Clippers to win, playing the Lakers without Blake Griffin and possibly Paul could be a challenge. All of these factors present us with a more competitive matchup to look forward to. Tune in to ESPN at 7:30 PM Pacific for the battle between the two L.A. basketball franchises, and merry Christmas.