The Los Angeles Clippers will be making their season debut against the hometown rival Los Angeles Lakers at 10:00 p.m. EST tonight. This game marks the return of two-time finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who was sidelined all of last season with a torn ACL.
The Lakers will be running with Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis to start out the game. The Clippers opening lineup consists of Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac. Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant are both sidelined for this outing.
Keys To A Lakers Victory
The Lakers dropped their opening game to the Golden State Warriors in an embarrassing fashion on Tuesday. One of the biggest issues was Darvin Ham’s management of Davis. With all the injuries the star forward has been through, it’s not wise to play him big minutes early in the season. He was playing great to start out on both ends, but his legs clearly gave out by the second half. As of this point, Davis is a player that could only be played in spurts. To make sure he’s impacting the game towards the final minutes, his energy needs to be conserved throughout the game. Playing him spurt minutes in each quarter would be the smartest route towards saving his best abilities for the end of the game.
There also has to be more of a use of a James-Davis pick and roll. With the lack of floor spacing on this Lakers roster, this duo should be generating offense through their lethal pick and roll. There were too many times last game where Davis was sitting in the corner, just waiting for a pass. Ham needs to implement a pick and roll into the playbook way more if the Lakers want to generate efficient points.
This group also needs to do a better job of maintaining their effort level throughout the game. It looked as if when Golden State began to go on their run, the majority of the team just gave up right there. Outside of coaching, there are ways to make runs of your own and take over, especially with a player on the team like James. This mainly comes on the defensive end, as it was clear there was a lack of motivation come the second half against Golden State. The Lakers need to remain locked in all night long when it comes to closing out on shooters, which is a big key to beating a deep Clippers team.
Keys To A Clippers Victory
The Clippers should prioritize a small ball effort against the Lakers. If they use a James-Davis pick and roll to their advantage, having a five-man lineup that can contain this play will help neutralize it. If it’s close down the stretch, a lineup of Powell-George-Leonard-Batum-Covington would help slow this down. It also helps in terms of perimeter defense, as it’ll make sure the weak Lakers shooting core starts out cold. This five out lineup will also help with spacing. All five can knock down threes, and it’ll open the floor plenty more for shooters to hit shots.
A big part of this game will be the use of John Wall, George, and Leonard. The Clippers should have Wall stick to play making to allow his passing to open up the floor for shooters. Even off the bench, if Wall is used simply as a primary facilitator, he can average upwards of seven assists per game. Leonard should focus on scoring, being this team’s primary engine. Despite the ACL tear, he’ll still have the same strength, touch, and physicality which will allow him to put up points at will from every level of the floor. George should be a mix of both. He should be finding his spots within the mid-range while attacking the rim, but he should also play the role of point guard when Wall isn’t on the floor. The Clippers flourished last season with George in this role, a big reason they managed to stay afloat without Leonard. Allowing him to be the primary ball-handler at all times allows him to find a balance between creating for himself and others. When it comes to the rest of the players, they’ll be able to find roles as off-ball creators and shooters. This structure between these three players provides a good way for all players on the floor to succeed.
The Spread via FanDuel-
Moneyline: LAC: (-205) | LAL: (+172)
Spread: LAC: -5.5 (-108) | LAL: +5.5 (-112)
Total: 226 —Over: (-112) | Under: (-108)
Tyronn Lue has done a great job in recent years managing the roles of players, and that’s what this game comes down to. If he can make sure all players are in a role to succeed, it should be an easy win for the Clippers. Being the deepest team in basketball, if all players are in a spot to impact the game, there’s no reason for them to lose.
Score- Clippers 110, Lakers 99