The playoffs begin on Saturday in the NFL but tonight at Staples Center will be nothing short of a playoff atmosphere. The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers square off for their 2nd of 4 meetings this year unless they play each other in the playoffs. (The Lakers would have to get into the playoffs for that to happen though). The Clippers have home court tonight which means the lights will be on inside Staples Center, the Clippers logos will be up but everything else will be the same. The Lakers fans show up in huge amounts and will likely outnumber the fans supporting the Clippers but the love for the Clippers is growing. The Clippers bandwagon is piling up though with the Lakers struggle especially since the word LOYALTY has no meaning to most Los Angeles people.
The game itself should be entertaining. The Lakers under Mike D’Antoni like to play up tempo which is what Chris Paul and the Clippers want. Chris Paul wants to push it every time, so much so that he constantly gets upset at referees for not letting the team inbound the ball to him fast enough. The Clippers are clearly faster, more athletic and deeper than the Lakers so if the game is up tempo then it will be a long night for the Lakers. The Lakers actually have a much better record (8-2) when they have 96 or less possessions per game.
Both teams are looking for their first win of 2013. The Clippers are coming off a 2 game road losing streak following up the 17 game win streak and the Lakers are coming off a home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers where they looked sloppy. The Lakers are 3-2 since the return of Steve Nash but the former 2-time MVP will have his work cut out for him if he has the task to guard Chris Paul. The Lakers might put Kobe Bryant on Chris Paul defensively so Steve Nash can guard Willie Green but that would only happen at the start of the game. Bryant is the only offense the Lakers have so I don’t see him wasting all his energy on the defensive end also for a non-playoff game.
The Clippers depth and defense will be the key to victory for them tonight. A Tribe Called Bench is clearly the best bench in the league and the Lakers have one of the worst. The starters should keep the game close after the first quarter but the Clippers bench should pull away in the 2nd quarter giving the Clippers a double digit lead heading into half time. This seems like another game that the Clippers starters will be resting most of the fourth quarter especially since they play the Warriors tomorrow night. Kobe will keep the Lakers in it just as he did in their first meeting but 1 doesn’t beat 10 (except in golf). Speaking of golf the Lakers need to get it turned around quick or they will be hitting up the links in late April because the West is too good for them to sneak in the playoffs with a late run.
Kobe Bryant was asked yesterday what the Lakers do better than the Clippers and he responded by saying “Interviews”.
Prediction: Lakers 92- Clippers 108
Kobe finishes with 35 points while Chris Paul gets 15 points and 12 assists in only 32 minutes. Also I expect the #1 Top Play of the Night to come from someone on the Clippers.
Odds- Blake Griffin 3-2, Deandre Jordan 4-1, Eric Bledsoe 9-1, Lamar Odom/Vinny Del Negro 10000-1