The Clippers battle the Lakers today with a chance to sweep the season series and clinch the Pacific Division title. The last time these two teams met, the Clippers hit an incredible 16-30 from three to blow the game wide open. Particularly memorable was Chauncey Billups going 5-7 from 3 in just 16 minutes and Chris Paul destroying the Lakers to the tune of 24 points and 13 assists. Those stats actually don’t do Paul justice. He absolutely had his way with the Lakers defense, destroying Nash on isolations, taking advantage of pick and rolls, and of course hitting his fair share of 3s as well.
As strange as it may sound, the Lakers may be better off with Nash sitting this one out. Even if Nash does return, he likely won’t be completely healthy which clearly doesn’t bode well for the Lakers. Steve Blake is much more equipped to guard CP3 than Nash and actually did a decent job on the star guard. The Clippers boast several players off the ball who can hit from 3 including Butler, Green, Crawford, and Barnes. It’s paramount for Kobe to not roam recklessly as has been his wont for much of the year. Kobe has been more vigilant off the ball the last few games and I think that will be the case today as well.
In addition to the backcourt’s destruction, Blake Griffin also had his way with the Lakers/Peace in February going for 22 points in 31 minutes. With no Metta today, the Lakers will counter Blake’s athleticism with Dwight or the length of Pau in the half court. Dwight is as healthy as he has been all season, which is critical because of his importance in guarding the pick and roll. Pau didn’t play in the last game, but he’s playing today and more importantly is playing with purpose. For all of his great shot blocking ability, DeAndre Jordan isn’t actually a great on-ball defender. In fact, his subpar individual defense was on display earlier this week, getting torched by Roy Hibbert. The opportunities will be there for Pau to make his mark, regardless of whether Griffin or Jordan is guarding him.
Despite the Clippers having their way with the Lakers throughout the series, several signs point to things turning around today. First and foremost, it can be argued that the Lakers are actually playing better than the Clippers down the stretch. Second, the taste of that last blowout to the Clippers must surely be on the Lakers minds, as is the thought of a potential sweep to these guys. I imagine those two thoughts are enough to fend off any potential fatigue from playing a 7 man rotation. Lastly, the aforementioned fundamental factors make today an excellent opportunity to exact some revenge. I think the Lakers will seize that opportunity.
Play: Lakers +4.5
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