Clippers: Should LAC or Lakers be more concerned with poor start?

Paul George LeBron James (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Paul George LeBron James (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Each coming off an embarrassing loss, the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers haven’t done much to impress their fans so far.

The Lakers blew a 26-point lead to the now 1-4 Oklahoma City Thunder on the road while the Clippers’ 79 points were the fewest they’ve scored since they were blown out by 51 last December.

Other than the fact that we’re still early in the season, it’s important to remember that both clubs were missing their franchise player in their last games, as Kawhi Leonard is still rehabbing while LeBron James deals with an ankle injury. Still, the nature of the combined six losses of the team is at least a little concerning.

Through Wednesday’s games, let’s take a look at why both teams have been struggling so far in the 2021-22 season.

Rebounding and Fouling are killing the LA Clippers so far

Just a couple of days ago, I looked at how rebounding was easily the Clippers’ biggest problem after a pair of losses. While they fixed it for one game against the Portland Trail Blazers, they immediately regressed against Cleveland.

Allowing a whopping 57 boards, the Clippers were a minus 21 on the glass against the Cavaliers. In fact, Evan Mobley (10), Lauri Markkanen (9), Jarrett Allen (8), and Kevin Love (10) alone had more boards than LA did as a team in their 92-79 victory.

As a result, the Clippers are back to last in the league in rebounds per game at 40.5.

Beyond that, the Clippers are also fouling more than anyone. Wednesday night, it cost them 23 points while they scored just eight from the line. Giving up 23 free throw attempts per game has the Clippers tied for fourth-most in the NBA.

The Lakers’ defense is letting them down

Strangely enough, the Lakers have also been plagued by rebounding and fouling issues. At 44.6 boards per game, they’re the eighth-worst rebounding team in the league. They also give up more free throw attempts (25.4) than anyone but the Boston Celtics.

Aside from that, the Lakers’ defensive rating of 111.9 has them at 24th after their collapse against OKC. The 119.6 points per game they’ve given up through five games currently has them dead last in the NBA.

Which Los Angeles team should be more concerned right now?

It’s important to note that I think both L.A. teams will be just fine once they get some of their key guys back into the rotation. The Clippers are still without Serge Ibaka and, more recently, Marcus Morris. They also have a franchise player waiting to rejoin the squad by the end of the season.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have had to give extended minutes to guys like Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore in the face of their multitude of injuries. Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Kendrick Nunn all round out the roster well when healthy, and obviously, the absence of LeBron James will always cause problems.

Given the timeline of Kawhi’s rehab suggesting he won’t likely be back until at least March, I give a slight edge to the Lakers when it comes to avoiding panic. With so many new faces, their rough start was inevitable, but it’s hard to pick against a team with Anthony Davis and LeBron James — assuming they stay healthy.

The Clippers should be better when they get some bodies back, but the absence of Kawhi for so long means they’ll need to continue relying on superhuman performances from Paul George, who has already said his legs have felt “heavy” recently.

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Neither team should be too worried about long-term consequences yet, but barring some improvements, that might change soon.