What’s up with the LA Clippers?
All the talk heading into the new season was how the Clippers were the favorites out in the West. Kawhi Leonard was finally healthy after missing all of last season recovering from a torn ACL. Paul George was also back at full strength after missing 51 games last season due to an elbow injury. The Clippers also signed John Wall, hoping he would have a revenge season with the team.
Things have not come together for the Clippers 11 games into the season so far. Leonard has only played in two games and things are once again murky surrounding the current injury that’s keeping him out. Wall has also missed several games. And the games he’s played in, he hasn’t been the All-Star that the team was hoping for (22 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 4.9 APG). Paul George is chugging along like he’s done so far in his Clipper tenure, carrying an undermanned team as best as he can (25.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.6 APG).
Without Leonard and with Wall underperforming, the Clippers are far from the championship team everyone expected them to be. They’re closer to being the team that fought for a play-in spot last season. They have a negative net rating (-3.8) and own the league’s second-worst offense, managing only 105.2 points per 100 possessions. What’s been keeping them afloat is their fourth-ranked defense. They’re only giving up 109 points per 100 possessions.
The Clippers have a lot of things going against them to start the season. The one thing going for them is that they’re still better than the Lakers this season.
What’s up with the Los Angeles Lakers?
That’s a good question. What is up with the Lakers?
A few days ago, it seemed like the Lakers were starting to figure things out. Russell Westbrook came off the bench and instantly energized the second unit. He looked comfortable with his new role and that allowed LeBron James and Anthony Davis to lead the starting crew. The Lakers still couldn’t hit their outside shots but at least their defense was solid and their superstars were playing like superstars.
Then things bottomed out for the Lakers. A tough loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was sandwiched in between beatdowns by the Utah Jazz where the Lakers gave up a total of 269 points in two games. Because of that the Lakers fell from their perch in the top five of the league in terms of defensive rating, all the way to 15th, giving up 111.8 points per 100 possessions.
What’s even more worrisome is the performance of James and Davis. James is plagued with the same problem as the rest of the team. His jumper is gone. He’s hit only one out of 16 attempts from beyond the arc in the past three games he’s played. Davis, on the other hand, has played passively, scoring only 19 and 22 points in two of the three losses before breaking out for 29 in their last game.
The Lakers need to figure out a lot of things to start the season. Their offense was declared dead on arrival to start the season and their defense is currently on life support. They’re a loss away from returning to the bottom of the standings.
Storyline to watch out for
James, Davis, George and Leonard (if he does play) will get their numbers. But which role player steps up to help the superstars get the win?
For the Clippers, they’re used to having role players step up with all the injuries the team has faced in the past few seasons. Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac can be relied on to play consistently. Morris is the second-leading scorer of the team, averaging 15.3 points per game on 49 percent shooting. Zubac is averaging a double-double scoring 10.2 points while hauling down 11.2 rebounds per game.
Relying on the Lakers’ role players for consistent production will only lead to disappointment. Lonnie Walker IV can score in bunches but can also go on an incredible cold streak. Troy Brown Jr. and Austin Reeves are playing as well as they can but there’s only so much that they can do. That’s why the load on James, Davis, and Westbrook is so heavy - the rest of the team isn’t carrying their weight.
The Clippers are just the better team right now, even if Leonard does end up missing the game.
Their stout defense, combined with the Lakers’ failing offense, should be enough to result in an easy win.
Where to watch
You can catch this rivalry game at 11:00 AM, live on NBA TV Philippines, available on Smart GigaPlay and Cignal TV, and via livestream on NBA League Pass.