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Preview: Clippers vs. Lakers

The last time the Lakers (0-2) dropped their first 3 games of the regular season happened to be the final year of Jerry West's coaching career. That team finished the year 47-35 but lost to the Seattle Supersonics in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Interestingly enough, that squad had 4 starters that averaged in double-figures scoring and had a dominant center in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So what's the catch? Poor defense. They allowed their opponent to score 109.9 points per game which nearly matched their 112.9 points per production on offense.

Against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (1-0), today's Laker team is still finding their way defensively while learning how to play together as a unit on offense. It's not a very comfortable situation for any team even as talent-laden as the Lakers. But is that enough excuse to lose to a Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks team on opening night and a very young Portland Trailblazer team the following night? Ok, they probably would've lost at the Rose Garden no matter what. But to Dallas? That should't have happened. But it did.

Many Laker fans are already calling for the head of Mike Brown but Kobe Bryant, when asked for his thoughts on the overall climate of Laker nation, says not to panic and "shut up". Kobe went on reminding everyone that the new offense will take some time for the team to get used to.

That's fine and dandy. But what about the defense?

The Lakers are currently ranked 22nd in that department giving up 107.5 points from their opponent. Most of the problem lies in their transition defense and trickles all the way down to lack of communication. If that sound familiar, it's because those are the same issues they had last year. Brown has been dubbed a defensive-minded coach but still seems to be unsure about how to properly motivate and utilize his players on defense. That's probably why a lot of Laker fans want him fired.

If the Lakers are to turn things around starting tonight, it won't be easy without Steve Nash. Nash suffered a mild leg contusion after colliding with Trailblazer guard Damon Lillard in the 2nd quarter of Wednesday's game. He hasn't been officially written as a no-go at this moment but he will be a game-time decision. If that's the case, then it would be wise for Nash to sit this one out and try it again on Sunday against Detroit. Steve is just way too important for this team down the road to play hurt in just the 3rd game of a long season.

Whatever happens with Nash, the Lakers better be prepared against a tough opponent and probably the deepest team in the NBA.

The Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in their opening night at Staples Center, 101-92. The starting five for the Grizzlies actually outscored the starters for the Clippers 75-52. But the second unit for the Clippers dropped 49 points, led by Jamal Crawford with 29 points in his debut. Not that the Lakers needed a reminder on how capable this Clipper team is. It's just that in this league, knowing and doing something about it don't always happen at the same time.

Think of this as an early true test for the Lakers.

Matchup of the Game

Chris Paul vs. Steve Nash/Steve Blake: Having Nash over Blake is better for the Lakers against Paul no matter how you look at it. But dealing with CP3 should be a team proposition regardless of who ends up starting at the 1 for the purple and gold. With all of the "sonning" and all the media questions on the new roster had built over the summer, it's a good bet Paul has been waiting for tonight's matchup. Nash or Blake just needs to play their game and step up to the challenge. No superstar in this league is immune to frustration when the opposing team makes him work on both ends of the floor.

Watch Out For

CLIPPERS: Bench – The Lakers saw first-hand what the Clippers bench can do during pre-season. If they allow this second unit to outhustle and outgun them, well…

LAKERS: Kobe Bryant – Kobe sat out that exhibition game against the Clippers. He knows what needs to get done tonight. Look for him to be extra aggressive on offense early.

Keys for the Game

> Defense: Expect CP3 to test how formidable the Laker interior defense is with Dwight Howard. That means there will be a lot of dribble penetrations just to see how itchy Howard is in challenging those shots. And don't forget about those lob passes to either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.

> Inside: Both Griffin and Jordan are impressive athletes who can jump out of the arena with one leg. But that doesn't necessarily translate to shot-blocking on their one-on-one defense. Pau Gasol and Howard have the size advantage and post-moves to make either one have a miserable time on defense. So why go somewhere else?

> Energy: Let's face it. If the Lakers come out readily to make learning the new offense as their excuse for another lackadaisical effort tonight, they're looking at 0-3. It's that simple.

Game Info

Tonight vs. Clippers
Tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
Staples Center
TV: TWC SportsNet/Prime Ticket/ESPN
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

Injury Notes

CLIPPERS: Chauncey Billups (Achilles – out until late November at earliest)

LAKERS: Steve Nash (leg contusion – game-time decision)

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Preview: Clippers vs. Lakers

The offensive woes of the Lakers (10-8) are the sore subject of all talks regarding the team since their 98-96 home loss to the Indiana Pacers last Sunday. It’s hard to disagree with those pointing the finger to the lack of offensive identity considering that Mike Brown himself has no clear-cut solution in having his players know who to go to in every situation.

But to be fair, it isn’t just the offense that’s hurting the Lakers these days. Inconsistent effort and allowing the frustration of learning a new system while the wins and losses count are up there as well.

There’s no time to

Preview: Clippers vs. Lakers

UPI POY 2009 - Sports

After getting embarassed by the Los Angeles Clippers (17-20) last Thursday 102-91, the Lakers (30-9) are looking for some payback. The Clippers survived a 33-point effort by Kobe Bryant and had 5 players score in double figures. Will they duplicate the same effort? I doubt it. But that doesn’t mean they won’t give the Lakers any problems on Friday.

Having Pau Gasol return to action will greatly improve the Lakers, but him returning could also mean having Andrew Bynum play with less aggressiveness. The Lakers might have the biggest frontcourt lineup, but the “twin towers’ haven’t exactly found a way to share the ball to maximize their full potential on offense.

I think, depending on the matchup and the defense, the ball should run through Pau on offense first and have Andrew anchor that frontline on defense to start the game then switch off every quarter or each half of each quarter. That way, there’s a sense of rhythm for each player every game. Right now, both players expect the offense to run through them forcing the younger Bynum to defer to Gasol even when he has a better advantage on offense than Pau.

The Clippers have lost 7 of their last 8 road games, including their last two games against Memphis and New Orleans dropping their road record to 5-12. The Lakers are fresh off of their big win in Dallas on Wednesday. It’s a huge victory because it was probably their best overall effort as a team and without the full-service of their two cornerstones. Even with their struggles, the Lakers still owns the best overall record and the best home record at 12-3 in the entire association.

Both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar have been stepping it up lately earning them more minutes. Those two are starting to play well together which will bolster their roles (and minutes) to this team even when everybody eventually becomes healthy again.

Luke Walton and Ron Artest‘s contributions of late have also gone under the radar amidst everything that is happening with this team. Walton didn’t play his first game back in San Antonio with much rust at all. In fact, he’s played his last two games with so much confidence and no signs of his back injury. His intelligence on offense and grasp of the Triangle has been one of the factors of why the bench has been producing better these days.

Artest gave one of his best efforts of the season resulting in a double-double against the Mavs despite fighting off pain in his sprained right index finger and aching foot. Much like Kobe, Ron is a warrior who never complains about the slightest injury and never asks to come out of a game unless him staying on the floor hurts the team more.

So with Pau back, the Lakers will have all their pieces available hopefully for the rest of the season. I know some of us Laker fans have been wanting for Kobe to get some rest but that will never happen, according to Bryant. He doesn’t even want to talk about sitting out a single game. He said that he’ll just continue getting some treatments for it and get as much rest in-between games as possible.

Kobe being hurt could be good for the Lakers because it forces his teammates to play up to their potential and learn not to rely on him too much. Once they get used to the idea of not always deferring to Kobe, we should see the Lakers play a much better team-oriented basketball on both baskets.

The keys for the Lakers on Friday on offense is to utilize both Pau and Andrew 90% of the time. Chris Kaman is the only one with enough size to guard either one but not both at the same time. So, that will put him on a help mode on defense the entire time he’s on the floor making him spend more energy. The Lakers should also reward Artest for his effort Wednesday night by throwing him some bone on offense once in awhile.

Defensively, Kaman has to be contained and his shots challenged. Baron Davis will again make himself the focal point of the perimeter unless guys like Derek Fisher, Farmar and Brown can do something about it. I expect them to after what Davis did to them last time. The other guy that’s been causing some headaches for the Laker defense lately is Craig Smith. Whoever is guarding him must make him put in on the floor by harassing him on defense rather than allow him to turn his back to the basket and do his thing. He loves to make a quick first step to the middle of the paint after backing down his man a couple of times, so they have to take that away until he can prove he can be equally as effective going baseline turning the other way.

The Clippers are a different team when the crowd isn’t in their favor even if they are still playing in the same building as any of their home games on Friday. That said, the Lakers can’t count on that also. We’ll see if snapping their 9-game losing streak to the purple and gold has given them enough confidence to play as good this time around.

Tip-off is at 7:30. TV: FoxSports West  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Clippers vs. Lakers

UPI POY 2009 - Sports

After getting embarassed by the Los Angeles Clippers (17-20) last Thursday 102-91, the Lakers (30-9) are looking for some payback. The Clippers survived a 33-point effort by Kobe Bryant and had 5 players score in double figures. Will they duplicate the same effort? I doubt it. But that doesn’t mean they won’t give the Lakers any problems on Friday.

Having Pau Gasol return to action will greatly improve the Lakers, but him returning could also mean having Andrew Bynum play with less aggressiveness. The Lakers might have the biggest frontcourt lineup, but the “twin towers’ haven’t exactly found a way to share the ball to maximize their full potential on offense.

I think, depending on the matchup and the defense, the ball should run through Pau on offense first and have Andrew anchor that frontline on defense to start the game then switch off every quarter or each half of each quarter. That way, there’s a sense of rhythm for each player every game. Right now, both players expect the offense to run through them forcing the younger Bynum to defer to Gasol even when he has a better advantage on offense than Pau.

The Clippers have lost 7 of their last 8 road games, including their last two games against Memphis and New Orleans dropping their road record to 5-12. The Lakers are fresh off of their big win in Dallas on Wednesday. It’s a huge victory because it was probably their best overall effort as a team and without the full-service of their two cornerstones. Even with their struggles, the Lakers still owns the best overall record and the best home record at 12-3 in the entire association.

Both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar have been stepping it up lately earning them more minutes. Those two are starting to play well together which will bolster their roles (and minutes) to this team even when everybody eventually becomes healthy again.

Luke Walton and Ron Artest‘s contributions of late have also gone under the radar amidst everything that is happening with this team. Walton didn’t play his first game back in San Antonio with much rust at all. In fact, he’s played his last two games with so much confidence and no signs of his back injury. His intelligence on offense and grasp of the Triangle has been one of the factors of why the bench has been producing better these days.

Artest gave one of his best efforts of the season resulting in a double-double against the Mavs despite fighting off pain in his sprained right index finger and aching foot. Much like Kobe, Ron is a warrior who never complains about the slightest injury and never asks to come out of a game unless him staying on the floor hurts the team more.

So with Pau back, the Lakers will have all their pieces available hopefully for the rest of the season. I know some of us Laker fans have been wanting for Kobe to get some rest but that will never happen, according to Bryant. He doesn’t even want to talk about sitting out a single game. He said that he’ll just continue getting some treatments for it and get as much rest in-between games as possible.

Kobe being hurt could be good for the Lakers because it forces his teammates to play up to their potential and learn not to rely on him too much. Once they get used to the idea of not always deferring to Kobe, we should see the Lakers play a much better team-oriented basketball on both baskets.

The keys for the Lakers on Friday on offense is to utilize both Pau and Andrew 90% of the time. Chris Kaman is the only one with enough size to guard either one but not both at the same time. So, that will put him on a help mode on defense the entire time he’s on the floor making him spend more energy. The Lakers should also reward Artest for his effort Wednesday night by throwing him some bone on offense once in awhile.

Defensively, Kaman has to be contained and his shots challenged. Baron Davis will again make himself the focal point of the perimeter unless guys like Derek Fisher, Farmar and Brown can do something about it. I expect them to after what Davis did to them last time. The other guy that’s been causing some headaches for the Laker defense lately is Craig Smith. Whoever is guarding him must make him put in on the floor by harassing him on defense rather than allow him to turn his back to the basket and do his thing. He loves to make a quick first step to the middle of the paint after backing down his man a couple of times, so they have to take that away until he can prove he can be equally as effective going baseline turning the other way.

The Clippers are a different team when the crowd isn’t in their favor even if they are still playing in the same building as any of their home games on Friday. That said, the Lakers can’t count on that also. We’ll see if snapping their 9-game losing streak to the purple and gold has given them enough confidence to play as good this time around.

Tip-off is at 7:30. TV: FoxSports West  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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