Showtime: 7:30pm PT
Plot: With Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Steve Nash all sitting out, this sure isn’t the game that the NBA thought they’d have on hands in their second Battle for Los Angeles of the season. It’s certainly not the marquee game that a casual NBA fan will have their eyes on—hell, I’m not even sure that this is a game I want to have my eyes on.
The Lakers face the Clippers tonight in a red white and blue designated home game. As noted, the Clips will be without their best player in CP3, who will be out at least another five weeks with a separated shoulder. As huge as their loss is, it pales in comparison to what the Lakers are facing—on Wednesday against Houston, the Show only had nine bodies on the bench, which includes Nick Young who has been hampered by a bad back in recent days. The results have been exactly as you’d think for a team missing so many key players: the Lakers have lost nine of their last ten games, including seven by double digits. It’s encouraging to say that it hasn’t been for a lack of effort. If nothing else, this squad can hang their hats on playing hard every single night. However, the NBA game has sifted out the simple equation that in this league, you need some actual talent to consistently win games. The Lakers simply do not have that right now.
If it were any other situation, this would be a prime time to attack a re-grouping Clippers squad. They’ve won their last two against weak competition in the Magic and the Celtics, but got blasted by over 20 points against San Antonio in their first game without Paul. In the interim, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have been playing some of the best basketball of their careers, trying desperately to keep the Clips afloat while their best player is on the mend. Darren Collison is filling in admirably for CP3, but there’s no doubt when the Clippers start to play elite competition, the results will show how badly they miss him. Luckily for them, the Lakers aren’t anything close to elite right now.
Even though they’re playing at home against a major rival, there’s little to say about the Lakers tonight that hasn’t already been said: they’re simply not very good right now. They cannot stop anyone, which goes double for any guard that can just handle the ball, penetrate a little and has a proficient jump shot. Pau Gasol has tried to keep them competitive with a resurgent offensive game amidst his seventeenth very legitimate trade rumor, but defensively he has lent to a scheme led by players that are not capable of locking down opponents.The Lakers shocked the Clips in the season opener, prevailing 116-103. However, this isn't at all the same team that pulled off that upset.
Honestly, the most positive thing I can write about this game is the fact that it’s in LA, which is part of a much needed five game respite for a Lakers team that’s about to embark on an 11-day, 7-game road trip one that could put to bed the season all but officially.
It’s still Lakers-Clippers and certainly a reason to get excited, but this could be a tough one, friends.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino