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Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: Bounce back at home?

After a rough season opener against the Warriors, how will the Lakers fare in their home opener against the LA Clippers, another probable Western Conference contender?

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Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s extremely early in the season. Actually, it’s close to the earliest you can get in terms of drawing real conclusions. The Los Angeles Lakers are 0-1 to start the 2022-23 campaign, and although they had the very same start to the four preceding seasons that were led by LeBron James... this current situation feels a bit more dreary than all of those past four losses to start the year.

That’s mostly because Tuesday’s 123-109 loss to the Warriors validated many of the worries surrounding this Lakers roster.

Shooting has been a concern for basically every Lakers squad since LeBron came to L.A., but it may be at its most severe this season. The team did not show any reason for optimism against the Warriors, as they shot 10-of-40 on 3-pointers (25.0%) and 15-of-59 on field-goal attempts outside of the restricted area overall (25.4%).

And despite Darvin Ham’s defensive background and emphasis, even the biggest believer of his would have at least a little doubt in his ability to get a good defense out of this roster that has no wing-stoppers and Russell Westbrook playing heavy minutes.

The wing shortage reared its ugly head against the Warriors, as Andrew Wiggins (20 points) and Klay Thompson (18 points) had a few shots that seemed like warmup attempts for them as they simply shot over the defenders in front of them.

The Lakers will now have today off before taking on the L.A. Clippers Thursday. They will look to avoid starting the season 0-2, something the team has done two out of the four seasons that LeBron has played in the purple and gold.

Both times that has happened — the 2018-19 and, of course, 2021-22 seasons — the Lakers have missed the playoffs.

Here’s our preview of the rest of the matchup.

Wings, please

Because of their potent combination of an otherworldly point guard talent in Stephen Curry who is flanked by nearly-just-as-impressive wing shooters in Jordan Poole, Thompson, and Wiggins, the Warriors always struck me as a team that would be giving these 2022-23 Lakers fits throughout the season.

And although their offensive talent is distributed in different areas, it may be just as daunting in the form of these reloaded Clippers.

The Clippers won all four of the regular season games against the Lakers last season (as well as the three games between the two teams in the 2020-21 season), averaging 116.7 points in those contests. They did all of this without Kawhi Leonard, who will be playing in his first official NBA game since June 14, 2021 (Paul George will also play after only appearing in one of the four games against the Lakers last season).

Can this Lakers team defend these Clippers better than they did last year?

It’s almost too easy to say “No.”

The crux of the issue is the Lakers’ lack of wing defenders, as guys like Leonard, George, Marcus Morris, and Luke Kennard can sometimes simply spot up and shoot above Lakers “wing” defenders like Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley, or Austin Reaves given the two, three, sometimes even four-inch difference between the offensive and defensive players’ heights.

That’s without mentioning Reggie Jackson — a player who gave the Lakers fits in a couple of their losses against the Clippers last season — or John Wall. If those two are able to probe the Lakers’ drop coverage in pick-and-rolls leading to easy mid-range finishes or, even worst, passes to wide-open 3-point shooters... this game could get away from the Lakers fast.

The hope for the Lakers would be that the Clippers are a little rusty on opening night, leading to missed jump shots that their players would normally make. This could lead to multiple transition opportunities for the Lakers, allowing them to speed up a game that the Clippers may prefer to keep slowed down and isolated to the half-court.

Since the Lakers did not practice Wednesday, that may be the team’s only chance at stopping this Clippers offense, as there won’t be an opportunity to tweak the defense to Ham’s liking before Thursday’s game.

Notes and Updates

  • Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant will remain out for this game as they rehab from their respective thumb surgeries. It was decided a week or so ago that Troy Brown Jr. would be missing Tuesday’s season opener, and he stays on the injury report with the low back tightness that kept him out of the preseason. Cole Swider is also out with left foot soreness.
  • Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook were all probable for Tuesday’s game but played with no signs of limitations. Davis (low back tightness) and James (left foot soreness) remain probable for Thursday’s contest.
  • The Clippers should have everyone available, however, Reggie Jackson is listed as probable with a sore right groin. It must be nice...
  • Looking around the league, although the season opened Tuesday night with the 76ers vs. Celtics before the Lakers and Warriors wrapped up the evening, most everyone else is tipping off their season on Wednesday. The most notable contest of the 12-game slate may be the Pelicans vs. Nets, which features the long-awaited returns of Zion Williamson and Ben Simmons.

The Lakers and Clippers will start their game at 7 p.m. PT. It’ll technically be a home game for the Lake Show, with the contest being solely televised nationally via TNT.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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