Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers need to win the championship for their respective fan bases
After the conclusion of the regular season that took place across the United States and the bubble, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the first seed while the Los Angeles Clippers nabbed the two seed.
While it’s a big win for Los Angeles basketball that the two LA teams are the top teams in the Western Conference, both teams face an insurmountable amount of pressure to deliver a championship to their franchise and their fanbases.
As the number one seed, the Lakers are perceived as the team to beat coming out of the West but they need to show that. Despite finishing the regular season with a 52-19 record and 3.5 games ahead of the Clippers, they’ve widely relied on their two superstar players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis to carry them.
While they have a loaded frontcourt, both from a talent and depth level, their backcourt is where they’ve struggled all year long. LeBron, who is a natural power forward, at times, was playing the one or two position due to the lack of reliable options the Lakers have to set up the rest of the team on the court. This is a big reason why he led the league in average assists per game with 10.2.
With a first round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, some are predicting to see an upset and I can see why they’re predicting that. The Lakers went 2-1 against the Trail Blazers during the regular season but this is without Jusuf Nurkic who was injured and has excelled in the bubble.
The Trail Blazers have arguably the league’s greatest backcourt duo of Damian Lillard who was named the bubble MVP and C.J. McCollum who is a solid supporting piece alongside Portland’s superstar. Carmelo Anthony has also been a reliable scoring option for the Trail Blazers this season as well.
As Davis will most likely be guarding Nurkic near the net, Frank Vogel will most likely have LeBron cover Lillard or Melo. The safe bet is having him guard Lillard due to his hot streak and him being the primary superstar. Regardless of which one he covers, LeBron has at times looked lost on defense and if he shows that in the playoffs, it doesn’t do the team any good.
LeBron, at the age of 35, is slowly running out of time to win another championship. With LeBron getting older, it also means the less time there is for the Lakers to win it all. The Lakers also have pressure to win a championship this year as they need to show that the package it took to get Davis, three young players and multiple picks, was worth it. While coming first in the regular season is great, it doesn’t surmount to playoff success and that will all mean nothing if they don’t get the trophy.
For the Clippers, there’s the same amount of pressure the Lakers have on them to win the championship. After leading the Toronto Raptors to the eternal destiny last season, Kawhi Leonard is now tasked with doing the same thing for the Clippers although with a superstar running mate in Paul George. The Clippers also arguably have better players than the Raptors did last season which gives Kawhi more pressure to win.
The Raptors (53-19) finished with a better regular season record than the Clippers (49-23). As it doesn’t mean too much since both teams were expected to be good teams heading into the season, if the Raptors outlast the Clippers in the playoffs, it will be a big talking point in the media. It will be even worse if the Raptors and Clippers both reach the finals and the north siders are the ones that end up victorious.
If the Clippers don’t win or if they don’t even reach the finals, it only gives them another two years to win before both Leonard’s and George’s contracts are up in which they could both seek a different team to try and win a championship.
Like the Lakers with Davis, the Clippers gave up a big package to land George which included a starting calibre role player in Danillo Gallinari, a budding superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and multiple picks in which some saw the Oklahoma City Thunder fleeced the Clippers. If the Clippers win it all, those talks will simmer down but if they lose, those cries will only grow louder.
With how the roster is constructed, this is the best chance for the Clippers to deliver the franchise’s first championship. In the coming offseason, they could lose Montrzel Harrell who’s a key role player for the team. If the Clippers lose and he ends up walking for greener pastures, the teams’ depth weakens which hurts their chances to win in the coming years.
Both LA teams face a tremendous amount of pressure to deliver a championship for their fanbases and franchises. If they face each other in the Western Conference finals, it will be a big matchup with lots on the line for both teams although only one can go through to the finals. First, they both have to get there though and both teams should take none of their games in any rounds for granted.