Game 3: Los Angeles Lakers Take On Hallway Rivals in First Installment of Battle of LA.

The only two teams in the NBA to share the same building will be squaring off on Friday night at Staples Center as the Los Angeles Lakers seek their first win of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers.

When Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joined forces with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, many Laker fans started dreaming for the stars. Some felt this team would surpass 72 wins and start yet another dynasty.

After a 116-106 loss to Portland on Wednesday, though, reality sunk in. It’s going to take time for this mega team to play up to its potential. The Lakers committed 24 turnovers and that’s just one sign that the team is not in-synch.

The Lakers will hope that their matchup against the revamped Clippers will ignite a spark that will help them attain their first victory.

Clippers Breakdown:

The Los Angeles Clippers won their third-ever playoff series last season when they outlasted the Memphis Grizzlies in seven games. However, they found out that they have plenty of work to do to become a championship caliber team when they were swept away by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.

The Clippers were highly active in the offseason signing Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, and Jamal Crawford to bolster their bench. They also re-signed Chauncey Billups, who missed  most of last season due to injury. Billups, who is still hurt, will help bring a veteran presence to a team that features plenty of players that were having their first taste of the playoffs last year.

The loss of Billups means that Eric Bledsoe will need to step up for the Clippers. Bledsoe scored 13 off the bench in the Clippers’ opening night victory over Memphis. They got some revenge after losing to them in the playoffs, but now they’ll be looking to make a statement against the Lakers. They want to show that all of the money the Lakers spent means absolutely nothing to them and that they’re going to get a tough fight from the Clips year round.

One player new to the Laker-Clipper rivalry is Jamal Crawford, who dropped 29 points on the Grizzlies off the bench. Considering how weak the Laker bench was last game, he’ll be a major factor, especially in the battle of the second units.

Matchup Breakdown:

Projected Starters:

Clippers:
C- DeAndre Jordan
PF- Blake Griffin
SF- Caron Butler
SG- Willie Green
PG- Chris Paul
Notable bench players: Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom

Lakers:
C- Dwight Howard
PF- Pau Gasol
SF- Metta World Peace
SG- Kobe Bryant
PG- Steve Nash*
Notable bench players: Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill

The biggest mismatch comes at the two position. Kobe Bryant will be going up against Willie Green and with the team struggling, the Black Mamba might want to consider taking matters into his own hands in this game. Kobe is averaging just 17 field goal attempts per game after the first two games. Last year, he averaged 23 field goal attempts per game. With the team so out of synch and Kobe going up against Green, the team needs to revolve around Bryant tonight. Expect Kobe to shoot tonight and try to hit the 30-point mark for the second consecutive night.

For the Clippers, their offense will revolve the team’s heart and soul, Chris Paul. Steve Nash, who is banged up and also in his late 30s, is not the greatest defender right now and Paul needs to take advantage of this. It’s not inconceivable to see Paul go off tonight. He also gelled well with Jamal Crawford, who was unstoppable off the bench.

That’s where the biggest mismatch of the game lies: the bench. The Clippers bench was on fire against Memphis and could very well do the same on Friday night. The Lakers bench, on the contrary, struggled immensely. Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, Chris Duhon, and Jordan Hill were a combined minus-67 in Portland. One bright spot was Steve Blake, who did a phenomenal job on both sides of the ball replacing the injured Nash. In 27 minutes, he didn’t turn the ball over once. The Lakers will obviously need more production from Jamison, who averaged over 16 points per game in Cleveland last year. Just like the Laker starters, the bench lacks team chemistry and it’s going to take time for these guys to gel with one another.

As for the bigs, the Lakers will always win that matchup on paper, but they actually need to step up when the whistle blows. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard played a lot better in Portland, but they’ll need to continue that dominance against a tougher matchup in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.

Finally, the turnovers need to go. The Lakers turned the ball over 24 times on Wednesday and that’s just inexcusable. Many of those turnovers were fundamental errors such as offensive fouls and dropped passes. It doesn’t matter if the team isn’t gelling. That number needs to go down. If the Lakers keep the turnovers down, they can survive the Clippers’ second unit onslaught and win the game.

Head-to-Head History

This will be the 193rd all-time meeting between the Lakers and Clippers. The Lakers are trouncing the Clippers in the all-time series, 143-49. These two teams first met in 1970 when the Clippers were the Buffalo Braves. This is the 127th game with the Clippers franchise in Los Angeles. With the Clips in LA, the Lakers lead the series 97-29.

Ever since both teams moved to Staples Center, the Lakers are 38-13 against the Clippers. However, in years when the Clippers have made the playoffs, the Lakers are just 4-3 against the Clippers at Staples.

The Clippers have had just one three-game winning streak since 1975 against the Lakers. In that same span, they’ve won consecutive games against the Lakers just five times. In contrast, the Lakers have had a total of seven winning streaks longer than seven games against the Clippers since ’75.

Vegas Outlook:

The Lakers will be underdogs for the first time in the 2012-13 season tonight. They’ll be two-point dogs. They have 45.7 percent implied probability to win based on their money line. The Lakers are 0-2 this season as favorites. The Clippers, on the other hand, are 1-0 when they’re favored to win.

Prediction:

It’s a tight one, as the Clippers’ second-unit takes advantage of the Lakers bench. However, Kobe goes on a late fourth-quarter run and the Lakers win.

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About andrekhatch

Red Sox. Cowboys. Lakers. Penguins. USC.
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