A battle for Staples Center will open the season for the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers today in a showdown between two very new rosters (10:30 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT).
The Clippers will need more time to adjust to the loss of point guard Chris Paul, who took on the bulk of the ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities. New guards Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams will pick up some of the slack as the squad attempts to keep their spot in the playoffs.
For the Lakers, this June’s No. 2 overall pick, Lonzo Ball, steps into the role as the savior of the franchise. The team has now lost at least 55 games in four consecutive seasons, and the organization seems confident that Ball can lead a turnaround. A developing roster, along with some key offseason additions, should make the team better than it has been as of late.
Which Los Angeles squad will show more chemistry in their first meaningful game together? We’ll examine some key X-factors for the contest and then decide our preview’s picks and betting predictions on the spread and the over/under for the game.
Which Rookie Point Guard Gets the Best of the Matchup?
The top matchup in this game is at point guard. While the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley could be the starter at point guard if he’s recovered from his knee injury, 30-year-old Serbian rookie Milos Teodosic will certainly get a lot of minutes at the 1 for the Clips.
And Teodosic will spend a lot of his time in an individual matchup with top Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. Both players are entertaining playmakers with the basketball, with Teodosic being a bigger shooting threat and Ball being much more athletic.
Neither Teodosic nor Ball is known for defense, so each guy has a chance to put up a nice stat line against each other. The player who plays more composed in his first game and works harder on defense will have a major leg up here.
Can the Lakers Find the Right Combination of Big Men to Slow Down Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
The Lakers have a very complicated frontcourt rotation. Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and Andrew Bogut (when he’s healthy) all deserve rotation spots, but is there enough playing time to go around?
Fortunately, the aforementioned group does give Los Angeles plenty of flexibility. There is a wide variety of skills represented in that group of six players.
But can any combination of those players deal with the duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? Both have excellent strength inside combined with pogo-stick leaping ability. Griffin is a good passer, and Jordan is a menace on the boards.
I would guess Nance and Lopez would be the best combination. Nance can use his athleticism to stay with Griffin, while Lopez is strong and can use his three-point touch to bring Jordan away from the paint.
Will Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson Be Aggressive in Attacking the Clippers’ Wing Defense?
One of the Clippers’ biggest weaknesses is fairly obvious: they don’t have great wing defense. Austin Rivers is fine there, but the other players who will play the most at the 2 and 3 (Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari) are both defensive sieves.
The Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is out, which means lots of minutes for Ingram and Clarkson. Both guys are still young, but have shown the occasional ability to take control on offense.
This is one game where the wings in Purple and Gold will need to be in attack mode all game long. If they aren’t, the Lakers will have trouble keeping up with the high-scoring Clippers.
Our Preview’s Clippers vs. Lakers Picks & Betting Predictions
The Clippers are definitely the better team and have experience on their side. While I do expect the Lakers to pull things together near the end of the season, they are both young and have new pieces to integrate, which could lead to a slow start.
Also, home-court advantage for the Lakers isn’t as big of a factor since the game is on the home floor of both teams.
- Nearly all sportsbooks have the Clippers as five-point favorites for tonight’s game. Bet on best odds of Clippers -5 @-110, which is the line given at BetOnline.
- 5 is the projected total for this game with most top sportsbooks. Considering both teams are clearly more offensive-minded and somewhat weak on defense, expect this one to hit the over. This preview’s prediction is to go over 218.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, Bookmaker or BetOnline.