Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 10:30 PM (ET) | Tonight
For the final game of the first half of the NBA season, the Clippers travel across the hall of Staples Center to play the still hometown favorite Lakers. While the Lakers had arguably the most impressive off-season in the history of the NBA landing both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash during the summer; their future hall of fame starting core still has yet to find themselves in a consistent time-span of winning games.
Ironically, Kobe and Shaq have developed a bond and appreciate for each other with the Mamba dealing with Dwight’s poor play year due to injuries and Shaq’s maturing during his retirement.
Dwight’s fresh from his biggest game as a Laker with 19 Points and 18 Boards in a 91-85 victory of Phoenix as Kobe only scored 4 points; but you can rest assure the Mamba will not have that same performance later on tonight. The key for Lakers tonight is going to have to be Dwight Howard dominated the inside of the paint because the Clippers perimeter defense with the tandem of CP3, Butler, Jamal and Barnes might be too much for Nash and Earl Clark to fathom.
With Gasol out for until March, Earl Clark has been the only bright side of the Lakers team this year as he’s had a breakout season under the D’Antoni offense. Transitioning into the widely-popular D’Antoni defense, Clark will have the toughest task of the night trying to contain Blake Griffin has he should be able to have his way with an undersized Lakers team with Antawn Jamison as the backup.
You’re probably saying, why not put Dwight on Blake? Simple. Guarding Blake creates opportunities for Dwight to obtain foul trouble easier in comparison to guarding the less offensively-gifted DeAndre Jordan.
Transitioning to the Clippers; Chris Paul returned Sunday at South Beach after missing 9 consecutive games due to a bruised knee cap and missed a brief stretch prior to re-injuring he knee once again. Chauncey Billups who’s been in out of the Clippers lineup all season due to foot injuries appears to be nearing 100% health as he’s fresh from his season high with 19 points last night as the Clippers beat the Rockets.
With the experience in the back court and Nash’s lack of defense, I expect the Clippers back court to have a big game tonight offensively with their main concern trying to find a way to keep Kobe out of trouble.
As the Clippers have maintained to stay as the third best seed in NBA with a 38-17 record only behind San Antonio and OKC, we’re curious if the team can take the next step to secure the top spot as they will need home court advantage in very competitive Western Conference.
Since losing 10 of their first 12 games to start the New Year, the Lakers have quickly turned things around winning 8 of their last 11 games as they’re currently at the 9 seed in the West. They currently sit 2 ½ games behind the Houston Rockets and are 3 games below .500 as a win tonight is key for the Lakers season to keep any confidence going against the more elite teams in the NBA right now.
In each of the two games, Kobe’s averaged 39 points in two losses as the Clippers worst stretch comes during the 4th quarter. While this game may not attract the attention of the sexy-matchup with Miami and OKC as a rematch of the NBA Finals; you can be prepared to witness a true battle of Los Angles with both teams playing with cohesiveness and chemistry for the first time all year.--