In Staples Center there is still a residue of excitement and thrill from Dwight’s Howard Sunday debut in purple and gold. Rust and limited minutes were expected, but Superman had other plans for the fans. He scored 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes against the Sacramento Kings. Despite losing the game, the stellar performance that Dwight Howard put on stole the show. However, the Lakers are still searching for their first preseaon victory and are aiming for tonight to be the night.
Tonight, the Lakers go for their first win in preseason play as they face their hallway rivals (if you ask Kobe they aren’t considered rivals), the Los Angeles Clippers without two of their starters (Bryant and Howard). Rivals or not, the competitive atmosphere around these LA battles have increased dramatically over the last two seasons. Despite it being preseason, these games come along with bragging rights as well, which only intensifies the match-up.
Frontcourt: DeAndre Jordan is coming off his best preseason game on Monday night against Golden State where he scored 18 points, 12 boards and three blocks while shooting 8-11 from the field.
Through six preseason games, Jordan is averaging 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and shooting 70.8 percent from the field. If Mike Brown chooses to start Robert Sacre in place of Howard, look for Jordan to get a lot of touches.
Blake Griffin is back from hurting his knee during Olympic preparation during this past summer. He is averaging 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. It is always fun and entertaining to watch the Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin match-up. I expect Gasol to utilize his mid-range game against Griffin mixed in with some pick-and-rolls via Steve Nash.
Caron Butler came into preseason and training camp lighter and in better shape. So far, that has seemed to pay off as he is quicker and more energetic. For the preseason, Butler is averaging 9.8 points in 21 minutes per game while shooting 46.7 percent from the field.
Backcourt: Tonight we will be able to see a preview of one of the best position match-ups in the Western Conference. Last year, Chris Paul proved his skill and impact as a franchise player as he was mainly responsible for getting the Clippers to the playoffs. Last season with the Clippers and during his time with the Hornets, Paul was able to have a highlight reel against the Lakers. However, now the Lakers have a future Hall of Famer in Steve Nash to make some highlights of his own in purple and gold.
Willie Green has been starting for Chauncey Billups, who is recovering from surgery from last season to repair his Achilles tendon. Billups has been cleared to participate in limited contact drills, but expect him to sit this game out. Kobe Bryant would have had a big advantage in this matchup if he was able to play (out with strained/bruised right foot).
Reserves Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe are having very solid preseasons thus far. Bledsoe is averaging 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assist per game in 29 minutes. Crawford is averaging 13.2 points and 3.5 assists in 28 minutes per game while shooting 33 percent from the field.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Turnovers and Control the Pace: The Lakers need to control the boards tonight, as the Clippers are very capable on the break led by Chris Paul. This will be key in limiting easy opportunities for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, whose games rely heavily on dunks and inside shots. Essentially, the Lakers need to increase their defensive intensity without the presence of two of their best defenders, Bryant and Howard, in order to force the Clippers to a half-court offense.
Additionally, the Lakers must control the ball efficiently tonight. This has been a reoccurring theme this preseason, and last season as well. This will also prevent the Clippers from getting out on the break since the Lakers have had their struggles with transition defense.
Bench Must Provide Relief: We all know the anxiety that the bench’s poor performance has caused so far. On Sunday, the Lakers’ bench was outscored 57-18 by the Sacramento Kings’ bench. The Clippers’ bench, led by Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe, has more depth than the Lakers. Yes, it is just preseason, but the Lakers’ bench needs to improve their contribution to not only calm the concerns of the fans, but to provide relief to the starting lineup, whose minutes need to be limited. Antawn Jamison needs to improve his role as he is considered the outright leader of the bench. With some good news, Jordan Hill is expected to return to the lineup tonight.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-6) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3-3)
7:30 PM PST, October 24, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network, NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Clippers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Willie Green
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: G Jamal Crawford, G Eric Bledsoe
Injury Report: G Chauncey Billups (achilles tendon), F Trey Thompkins (bone bruise left knee)