Among the most promising wins for the Los Angeles Lakers this season occurred on Christmas Day against their inner-city rivals. While a marquee matchup and iconic win, that game with a huge asterisk as the Clippers were without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Lakers will meet the Clippers again for a matinee on Saturday at 12:30 PST. LAC will still be without Griffin but Paul has returned from his lingering hamstring injury and his inclusion will make the Clippers a completely different animal.
Winners of their last five, the Clippers are looking to make up for lost time. Currently the fourth seed in the West, they will be hoping to advance up the ranks to avoid the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs.
Paul’s addition to the Clippers team that the Lakers faced on Christmas is a huge one. He is the engine that keeps the team running and he transforms DeAndre Jordan into an even more effective weapon.
Paul will be able to dominate the game at times but the Lakers have ways of slowing down his production. CP3’s main weapon will be pick and rolls with Jordan who has turned into one of the best in the league in that role. The Lakers have not adequately defended the rim at times but it will be paramount to do so against the Clippers.
Jordan’s effectiveness in the pick and roll is a momentum giver to his team. Additionally it contributes to foul trouble for opposing teams. Timofey Mozgov had success to the tune of 19 points in the first matchup so it will be important for him to stay on the court.
The Lakers must also do their best to shut down JJ Redick. The shooting guard is one of the best shooters in the NBA and his ability to run off screens and play off of Paul makes an incredibly difficult cover. Whoever guards Redick (it will likely be Nick Young to start) must play with immense focus so as to not lose the sharpshooter behind the arc.
The Lakers lost the bench matchup to the Clippers in their early season game but it could be a big key for a win this time around. The Clippers’ second unit is improved from years past but it’s still a poor defensive squad. Big games from Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, and the TnT duo (Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black) would go a long way to allow the Lakers a chance at an upset.