After four torturous months, the NBA is back! The daily preview returns with an absolute barnburner between Championship contenders LA Clippers and LA Lakers.
11:00 (AEST), Fri 31st Jul @ ESPN Wide World of Sports Arena, Orlando
History: Played 223: Lakers 149 V Clippers 74
Last meeting: March 8, 2020: Lakers 112 d Clippers 102 at Staples Center
Final Thoughts: After New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz get the NBA’s Disney World-hosted restart underway, the favourites to contest the Western Conference Finals square off for the fourth time this season.
The 49-14 LA Lakers hold a healthy lead at the top of the West standings. The 44-20 LA Clippers are next on the table but have a host of teams breathing down their neck for that second seed.
The Lakers went into the COVID-19-enforced break ranked as the fourth-best offensive team and third-best defensively. The Clippers were third and fifth respectively.
There’s big question marks over the make-ups of both line-ups. LeBron James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma are listed as probably and should play, but Anthony Davis is listed as questionable. The Lakers can ill-afford more absentees after Avery Bradley’s decision to skip Orlando and Rajon Rondo’s injury. Mid-season signings JR Smith and Dion Waiters have suddenly become key pieces in the Lakers’ title bid.
Meanwhile, the Clippers will be without Patrick Beverley and key bench duo Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, who have to clear quarantine protocols before taking to the court again. But the season’s suspension has allowed marquee pair Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to get healthy after only playing half of the Clippers’ games together so far.
Clippers claim LA bragging rights
The Clippers have won 21 of their last 27 against the Lakers, including two of three high-profile encounters this season.
Kawhi (30 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast) led the way in a 112-102 opening day win. He was equally influential in a 111-106 victory on Xmas Day, putting up 35 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. LeBron and AD combined for 58 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 112-103 result just before the shutdown.
The Lakers are an impressive 35-27-1 against the spread this season (third in the NBA). The Clippers aren’t far behind ATS at 35-29 (eighth).
Both teams will be encouraged by their scrimmage form. The Clippers’ missing stars are a blow, but at least they know how they’ll line-up – and Leonard and George are raring to go. The Lakers may be able to field their best available team but there’s obviously some injury worries.
Backing the Clippers with the start looks the best way to go in this blockbuster.
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