The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers are set to deck halls this Christmas.
The 11-22 Lakers are playing the 22-9 Clippers for the second year in a row on this vaunted holiday event. Last year, the Clippers triumphed over the Lakers 94-84 in a relatively ho-hum game. This year, however, should present watchers with a more palatable contest.
Haus-Specialty: The team that’s being highlighted in today’s Matchup
In Luke Walton’s first year as head coach the Lakers have gotten better as far as on court product, are still a ways away from true playoff spot contention. However, they are a team that is beginning to find the joy in basketball again, something seemingly missing under Byron Scott.
The Lakers have had a tumultuous December, going 1-12, the only win coming against the Philadelphia Seventy-sixers who – let’s just say are not the class of the NBA. The young talent on the team is going to have to be given time to find their niche and what they can be good at as a squad. It should probably start with defense. This team is in the bottom two of the league in defensive efficiency. They allow 110 points per 100 possessions. That is going to get you beaten every night – as it has the last four of their games. The Lakers’ opponents the last four games have, on average, scored 115 points per game.
Even worse, this is a team bereft of rim protection averaging only 3.6 blocks per game. A number good for 26th in the league. Fortunately for the Lakers, the Clippers are surprisingly near the bottom of the league in points in the paint.
What the Lakers can hang their hat on is that Lou Williams and Nick Young seem to be having career years as far as the numbers are concerned. Lou Williams is shooting a career high percentage from beyond the arc per game on the 2nd highest attempts in his career. Nick Young is also having a career year from deep, shooting 41% on almost 7 attempts per game. The “Kids” also have some things to be proud of. Julius Randle is averaging a healthy 12 points, 3 assists and 8 rebounds per game. D’Angelo Russell is second among sophomore players is assists per game and top five in scoring. Jordan Clarkson also pitches in 1.3 steals per game, second on the team.
The Lakers have a lot of developing to do to get to the level of their Christmas Day opponent. The front office has made sound moves and seem to have found a formula has a few years of making questionable moves.
Haus-Work: Things the Lakers and Clippers must address if they want a chance to leave with a win.
- Get stops. Play in the open court. The Lakers are 8th in the league in transition points. The NBA game is about playing to your strengths – transition play is a strength of theirs.
- Keep the Clippers out of the paint. This is a task easier said than done with the Lakers being 29th in the league in opponent points in the paint, allowing 48 points per game.
- Start the game well. The Lakers are 22nd in the league in first quarter scoring. If they can match the Clippers’ almost 29 points in the first quarter that should bode well for team morale the rest of the way.
- Get to the free throw line. With Blake Griffin out, and Chris Paul a game time decision, the number one free throw attempting team in the league may be without two of its top three free throw shooters. Against Dallas, the Clippers shot a total of 11 free throws –four coming from Jordan
- On the same note of Chris Paul’s health, Raymond Felton is likely to start. This means the team will have to adapt to. Felton isn’t the playmaker Paul is – obviously as he only had two assists last game. Sharing the ball and playing with a team concept will be ideal.
- Respect the game. The Lakers may seem inept at the moment, but this league does not guarantee wins. Never play down to your opponent.
* All stats are current based on Stats.nba.com and basketball-reference.
Tarik Black (ankle) Gametime Decision
Jose Calderon (Hamstring) Game Time Decision
Blake Griffin (Knee) Out
Chris Paul (Hamstring) Game Time Decision