Here is what to watch when the LA Clippers face the Los Angeles Lakers.
The LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers will face off in the first NBA action that counts in almost four months on Thursday. Here’s what to watch in the fourth and final regular-season matchup between the LA superpowers.
Here are three words that many of us have wanted to hear for months now:
Basketball is back.
The NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida is in full swing with a slew of scrimmage games with no positive COVID-19 tests showing some promise to finish the most unique season of basketball in the league’s history.
As a refresher, the 22 teams invited to Orlando will play eight regular-season games before the playoffs begin, so seeding is far from decided, and for the LA Clippers, seeding and health will be the two biggest factors for the team moving forward, and that journey starts against the LA Lakers.
Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James have led their respective LA teams all season, showing that both squads appear to be on another wavelength than everyone else in the Western Conference. The Clippers won the first two meetings, but the Lakers defeated the Clippers, who shot horribly in the contest, just before the NBA halted play in March.
At 5.5 games back, the Clippers even with a win on Thursday night stand virtually no chance at the number one seed unless the Lakers have a massive collapse. What that means is in all likelihood, Leonard, George, Davis, and James will likely play enough to make an impact but also take a game or two off depending on how things shape out.
Of course with the growing rivalry, this game means a ton for both teams, but both LA squads will look very different than the last time they saw each other.
For the Lakers, Avery Bradley opted out of the playing in the restart. In his last performance against the Clippers, he shot an impressive 9/17 from the field while scoring 24 points. His absence also means the Lakers lose their best defender aside from James and Davis, so expect the Clippers’ wings to have a field day if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dion Waiters, or JR Smith don’t step up defensively.
Point guard Rajon Rondo also sustained an injury in practice that sidelined him for six to eight weeks, so the Lakers will have to likely rely on Alex Caruso for backup point guard duties.
Anthony Davis is also dealing with a nagging eye injury he sustained Saturday against Orlando but he is expected to be ready for Thursday night.
Moving to the Clippers side of things, the bench situation is very dicey, which is something Doc Rivers hasn’t had to say for quite some time.
Top Sixth Man candidates Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell will not play on Thursday and are likely out on Saturday against New Orleans. Williams was investigated by the NBA after going to a gentleman’s club before attending a funeral and was given a 10-day quarantine while Harrell is still tending to a personal family situation outside of the bubble.
Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet returned this past weekend after announcing both tested positive for coronavirus awhile back, so both are expected to play and take larger roles on Thursday. Patrick Beverley returned as well on Saturday and will likely play as well.
This game of course will come with some rust and could be very low scoring as both squads are solid defensive sides, so expect a tough game in the first game of the restart. I would expect the stars to take on much of the scoring load with depth being an issue for both sides, but both coaches will likely use what they have at their disposal to keep their stars healthy for the postseason.
Also, expect a very AAU style of basketball to kick things off as both teams are still getting back into the motions of NBA games and trying to prepare for what most expect to be a Western Conference Finals matchup.
It is amazing to have basketball back and the LA squads will face off at 9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT on TNT in Florida as the marquee matchup.