The Los Angeles Clippers didn’t exactly look the part of a Finals contender in their opener against a short-handed team. They’ll aim for a better showing – particularly from 3-point range – when they take on another underwhelming roster in Friday night’s matchup with the Lakers.
The Clippers started their season by enacting some revenge for their Western Conference semifinal loss with Thursday’s 93-90 home win over Oklahoma City in their first game under new owner Steve Ballmer.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul scored 23 and 22 points, respectively, going a combined 17 for 36 from the field. Their teammates were 17 for 51, including 6 of 27 from 3-point range with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford combining to go 3 for 15.
The Clippers were especially unimpressive considering the Thunder were without Kevin Durant and lost Russell Westbrook to a broken hand in the second quarter. They surrendered a career-high 32 points to Perry Jones and were outrebounded 47-33, never leading by more than 10 in a performance described as "pretty ugly" by coach Doc Rivers.
"What I was proud of, they kept fighting defensively," Rivers said. "I don’t know that we win this game last year."
The Clippers will be heavy favorites Friday as they seek an eighth win in nine meetings with the Lakers (0-2). The last five victories came by an average of 22.0 points.
After allowing 109.2 points per game last season to rank 29th, the Lakers are allowing 113.5 points through two games. Their 3-point defense was nearly league average at 36.1 percent in 2013-14 but looks abysmal thus far with opponents going 28 from 61 from deep. The Lakers, who are trying to avoid opening 0-3 for the second time in three seasons, allowed Phoenix to go 16 for 32 from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s 119-99 road loss.
The Clippers, who shot 41.6 percent from 3-point range and averaged 122.0 points in four meetings last season, could also look to exploit the Lakers in transition. The Clippers were second in the league with 18.6 fast-break points per game in 2013-14 and outscored Oklahoma City 16-6, while the Lakers have been outscored 41-25 in transition in two games. The Clippers averaged 26.3 fast-break points against the Lakers last season.
Offense hasn’t come easily either for the Lakers, who are shooting 39.4 percent including 7 of 23 from 3-point range. Kobe Bryant has scored 50 points but is 17 of 42 from the field. He scored 31 against the Suns on 25 shots in 28 minutes, while the rest of the starting lineup combined for 25 points. New addition Carlos Boozer was 2 for 6 and committed eight turnovers.
"I told them we have to hang in there and stay together as a team," coach Byron Scott said. "It is only two games."
Bryant didn’t play against the Clippers last season but is averaging 30.6 points on 50.2 percent shooting his last 14 meetings.
Griffin averaged 25.3 points on 65.9 percent shooting in his last three games against the Lakers while Paul is averaging 12.1 assists in his last eight.