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Lakers vs. Clippers: Not a battle for soul of L.A., but a real battle

Jan 4, 2013, 6:41 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers' Bryant brushes past Los Angeles Clippers' Paul during their NBA preseason game in Los Angeles Reuters

The soul of Los Angeles is not at stake on Friday night when the Clippers “host” the Lakers at Staples Center.

First off, Los Angeles sold its soul for year-around 70 degree weather  long ago.

Second, Los Angeles is a Lakers town. Trust me, I live there, and while Clippers fans are no longer afraid to admit that in public; while the Clippers are the better and more entertaining team as I write this; while there is a passion for the Clippers, the Lakers are the true love. And that’s not changing because of 17 games.

But that doesn’t make Friday night’s showdown any less compelling.

The Clippers want to establish their dominance in Los Angeles and atop the Pacific Division (which they already have by 9 games over the Lakers, the Clips bigger concern in Golden State).

The Lakers are 15-16 with their next five games against Western Conference playoff teams — Clippers, Nuggets, Rockets, Spurs and Thunder. This is where Los Angeles has to start its run if it really plans on making a serious one.

So what decides this game? Here are three things to watch:

1) Tempo and turnovers: The Lakers may play for Mike D’Antoni but they don’t want to get in a pure track meet with the younger, more athletic Clippers. The Lakers have to defend then push the pace off the misses they make. If the game is pure 1980s up and down the Clips will run away with the game.

And the Lakers can’t turn the ball over. The Clippers lead the league by forcing their opponent to turn the ball over on 16.4 percent of their possessions. That’s what fuels the breaks and the alley-oops and the SportsCenter highlights. Because they have athletic big men behind them the Clips perimeter defenders can gamble with pressure. Steve Nash is capable of handling the pressure, but what about Chris Duhon and Darius Morris? What about Kobe Bryant (he can’t feel the pressure and go into hero mode)? The Clippers also are aggressive with their athletic big men showing out on picks late in the clock, can the Lakers make them pay for that with precision?

2) Lakers defense on the pick-and-roll: The Clippers are as dangerous a pick-and-roll team as there is in the league. Chris Paul is smart and patient and can pick you apart. They have shooters on the wings. They have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan rolling hard to the rim. What CP3 does as well or better than anyone in the game is recognize the mismatch after a switch on the pick and make you pay for it.

On the season the Lakers have done a good job containing then pick-and-roll ball handler (they shoot just 36.6 percent) but the roll man is another issue, they shot 56.9 percent. The Lakers make the initial help move but nobody helps the helper — move the ball and you can make them pay. Can the Clippers do that like they did on their streak?

3) The Lakers bench can’t totally suck: This is pretty straightforward — the Clippers have the deepest team in the NBA, the Lakers bench is… we’ll be kind and call it inconsistent. This could be the kind of game that is close for the first quarter, then the benches come in, Jamal Crawford exposes Jodie Meeks, and the Clippers are up 12 by the time the starters return. And the Lakers can’t dig themselves out of the hole.

The Clippers need their bench to make sure they win this, the Lakers need theirs to make sure they don’t lose it.

  1. BigBeachBall - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Gasol will get posterized by griffin as usual…

    • The One Above All - Jan 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      Griffin will elbow him in the face or use his hand to grab Gasol’s head as he goes up as usual….

  2. paulhargis53 - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    Clippers win this game in a laugher.

  3. bucs24 - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    Lakers do suck, but when the clippers get half the championships that the lakers do than we can talk about clippers are better than the lakers

    • tigerpork - Jan 5, 2013 at 2:56 AM

      always bringing up the “how many championships” blah blah blah

      such a cliche thing to say for an excuse..

  4. cosanostra71 - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    Go Lakers!

  5. herkulease - Jan 4, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Forget championships.

    The Clippers franchise have been perennial losers.

    Even if the Lakers had not won any championships they at least give fans a chance to believe.

    Since 84-85 season(when the Clippers became LA Clippers) the Lakers have missed the playoffs just twice, the Clippers on the other hand made have missed out 22 times. Most of those times they weren’t even close. Just when you think they are turning a corner, they’d go right back to losing 70 to 80% of their games for next few seasons.

    Honestly which team would get more talk, the constant loser or the one the at least you can think might be able to make a run?

  6. skavenbrew - Jan 4, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    Laker fan here. Got to face the truth everybody, the Clippers are straight up a better team this year by far.. The younger brother has to win sometimes…..

    • badintent - Jan 4, 2013 at 11:43 PM

      U B right.Matt Barnes is lighting up the Lakers, no Paul or Griffen, Matt Barnes.raining 3s ,just like my KNicks did on Spurs last night.

      • badintent - Jan 5, 2013 at 1:34 AM

        Game over, another Clipper win again………….. yawn.Think the Mayas were talking bout the Lakers in 2012 , not LA ?

  7. tomtravis76 - Jan 5, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    Lakers just need to ship Gasol to TWolves. The Lakers just aren’t using his skill set properly in this offense. Gasol is a great player and he looks like a scrub as of late. Gasol needs a a team that wants him. All of the trade rumors and benchings have got to be crushing him mentally.

    Why Wolves? KLove is not fitting into the unique team of Euro ball that the Twolves are playing. Rubio to Gasol would be good for the league. Love wants to be back in LA and his game would fit right in with this current Lakers team.

  8. paulhargis53 - Jan 5, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    Tom, put down the pipe. The lakers aren’t getting a young player in Love for a 32 year old Gasol. The lakers don’t have any other parts that Minnesota can use.

    You laker fans and your NBA2k trades…laughable

    • badintent - Jan 5, 2013 at 1:32 AM

      Where is bozo ? Did he choke on his lollipop or is he in J- detention …. again.

    • tomtravis76 - Jan 5, 2013 at 1:39 AM

      More of a fan of Rubio to Gasol. I like the style of team the Twolves are building.

      Everyone knows Love is not going stay stay in Minnesota when the contract is up, so why not get a major piece in the team you want to build in Minnesota now? Love is not going to lead the Wolves to a title.

  9. starvingardens - Jan 5, 2013 at 2:30 AM

    Warriors fan here. As much as i hate the Lakers, i must say that they need to get read of Meeks. That dude was straight garbage against the Clips. If they wanted to get a pure shooter that can stroke like crazy, they might want to take a look at trading for Anthony Morrow. I always thought that he would be a good fit there. People might not know who this cat is, but if he was setup the way Meeks was, he would have knocked down every one of those shots. Dubs fans know who he is.

    Oh yeah…. The boyz from the bay are on their way. We got next. Thanks for grinding them LakeShow.

  10. omniusprime - Jan 5, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    The Lakers own LA and will continue to do so until the wimpy Clippers win a couple of titles. The Clippers have been the laughingstock of LA, though now they’re looking good with several ex-Lakers on their bench. No wonder the Laker’s bench sucks because they traded away so many great bench players like Odom and Barnes. The Clippers are lucky to have a much better coach than the Lakers.

    Go Lakers!!! Go Kobe!!!

  11. paulhargis53 - Jan 5, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    major piece?? The guy is 32 and showing signs of slowing down. He’s not a building block. Just as Rubio reaches his prime, Gasol would be retiring. That would be an ignorant trade. Winning cures.everything, Twolves start making noise in the playoffs, he will stick around.

    You laker fans are.just going to have to get used to mediocre basketball.

  12. The One Above All - Jan 6, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Laker fanboy logic:
    1. “Yes”! We got Howard and Nash! 2013 Champions baby!
    2. So what? We just lost the pre-season, it doesn’t even count
    3. Woot! Woot! We just won a game against the rivals Warriors, we got nowhere to go but up!
    4. 15-17… Who cares? Playoffs is where it counts.
    5. Didn’t make the playoffs, there’s always next year!

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