Five things to watch in Lakers-Clippers game
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-8) host the Clippers (9-5) Wednesday at Staples Center:
1. There will be chippiness. Whether the Lakers and Clippers want to acknowledge a rivalry or not, it's indisputable that the animosity heightens when these two teams meet. So expect there to be plenty of hard fouls, technicals, elbows and animosity thrown all around. The key for the Lakers involves channeling that properly. If they get too consumed with it, it could result in too many Clipper free-throws and overall distract their focus. If they play physical for the sake of sharpening their defense and energy, that approach will give the Lakers an edge.
2. The Lakers meet challenges at point guard regardless of Chris Paul. The Times' Broderick Turner mentions it's likely Paul will play against the Lakers after missing the last five games because of a strained left hamstring. But it's not guaranteed. Surely Paul's presence even in limited form will give the Lakers fits. They frankly don't have the speed to keep up with him. With Steve Blake still sidelined because of a fracture of the cartilage connecting his rib and sternum, the Lakers don't have the depth, either. But the Lakers' problems at matching up with the Clippers at point guard hardly confines to Paul.
Clippers guard Mo Williams has averaged 25.66 points per game in the last three coming off the bench in Paul's absence, while Clippers guard Chauncey Billups nailed a game-winner against Dallas. While Derek Fisher matched Billups with a game winner against Dallas, rookie guard Darius Morris can hardly match Williams' play. Morris remains unpredictable with his excessive dribbling and decision-making. He has potential, but it's hardly a good thing at this point that he's playing more minutes during Blake's absence.
3. The Lakers must win the rebound battle. This is an area in which the Lakers should excel at every game. Because of lacking effort and energy, however, the Lakers severely fell in this department in their loss Jan. 14 to the Clippers. They lost 50-42 on the glass, including a 17-11 mark on the offensive boards. Considering the Lakers' horrific chemistry on offense, it's likely this area will hinge on how many points the Lakers actually score. Yet, the Lakers have lost in that department in the last five games.
4. How will the Big Three play? Kobe Bryant took a large volume of shots the last outing because no one else played well. Pau Gasol has complained about not having a low-post presence. Andrew Bynum continues adjusting to double teams. Bryant will probably face multiple defenders, so it's crucial he delegates accordingly. Gasol historically defends Griffin well, but he's going to have to be more assertive to receive more low-post touches considering Lakers Coach Mike Brown hardly features him in such sets. And with DeAndre Jordan either historically getting in foul trouble or having no match for Bynum, this should be a good pick me up. But it all hinges on how the Lakers' Big Three play off of each other.
5. Can Metta World Peace build off his recent performance? Besides Williams' recent presence, the Clippers hardly offer much from their bench. But it's at least more than what the Lakers have shown. That is, unless World Peace can operate more out of the post like he did Sunday against Indiana.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works against the tight defense of Clippers forward Caron Butler during their game Jan. 14 at Staples Center. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images