Staples Center will be rocking tonight when the Lakers and Clippers meet for the third time this season. The season series is tied at one game each. Each team will be playing for more than simply bragging rights since the Clips are only one and a half games behind the Lakers in the Pacific division. With a win, the Lakers can extend the gap and maintain their position at the top of the division.
The Clippers are playing their best basketball of the season and are touting a six game winning streak which includes wins over Memphis and Dallas. In addition, the Clips will be eager to avenge their loss to the Lakers on January 25th. Kobe and Co. will need to play their best basketball in order to come away with the win.
Frontcourt: Known for his high flying antics, Blake Griffin uses his ridiculous athleticism to score. A shot that might be a mid-range jumper for some is a highlight reel dunk for Griffin. He can jump out of the building and he’s not afraid to sky over any defender who might be in his way. He’s averaging a double-double for the year with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Griffin’s glaring weakness is his free throw shooting, which is a dismal 53.7 percent. At the five, DeAndre Jordan complements Griffin with his equally impressive athleticism on the defensive end. He’s swatting 2.1 shots per game and is the recipient of Chris Paul’s alley-oop lobs. Veteran Kenyon Martin plays 20 minutes per game and is a great defender also; however, he’s only managed to hit double digit scoring in two games this season.
Backcourt: The Clippers have a very solid backcourt despite losing Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams to injury. Shooting guard Randy Foye has had the hot hand lately – he’s made 16 three pointers in the past three games. Kobe will not be able to play off Foye at all. When the game is on the line, Chris Paul is the man for the Clippers. He leads the team with 19.3 points and 8.8 assists. On the defensive side of the ball he’s one of the league’s best on-ball defenders and leads the NBA with 2.4 steals per game. Off the bench, Bledsoe provides solid minutes due to his pesky defense. Nick Young was the Clippers trade-deadline acquisition and he can score in a hurry off the bench. He’s averaging 15.6 points per game since joining the team.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Offensive Flow – Ball movement is key to a successful offense. Lately the Lakers have started games with great ball movement, but as the game progresses they move the ball less and ultimately regress to iso plays in the third and fourth quarter. It’s mind boggling and the players need to make a conscious effort to keep moving the ball throughout the game.
Stalwart Defense – The Lakers will have their hands full with the Clips. They will need to defend the pick and roll, keep Chris Paul out of the paint and close out on shooters like Foye and Young. One key area of focus will be to limit Chris Paul. In their win on against the Clippers in January, they limited Chris Paul to four points and took him completely out of the game. If they can repeat this kind of defensive effort, they will have a good chance of beating their cross-town rivals.
Los Angeles Lakers (34-20) at Los Angeles Clippers (31-21)
7:30 PM PST, April 4, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Clippers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: PF Kenyon Martin, GF Nick Young, G Eric Bledsoe