All last season, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers looked poised to face each other in the Western Conference Finals. The two star-studded teams were the top two seeds in the conference and both squads looked dominant early in the playoffs.
However, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers went on to win the NBA Finals, led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It’s only fitting that the two Los Angeles rivals will face each other today on the first night of the season (10 p.m. ET Tuesday; TV: Live on TNT).
Both teams have a similar core from last season, but the Clippers replaced longtime head coach Doc Rivers with Tyronn Lue and added Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum as solid role players. The Lakers seemed to improve their roster, signing former Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell, as well as quality veterans Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol.
Which talented squad will have the edge today? Let’s dive into some key factors surrounding this much-hyped matchup. At the end of our preview and LA Clippers vs Lakers predictions, USA Betting will give our picks.
Who Wins the Ivica Zubac – Montrezl Harrell Bench Big Man Matchup?
One of the top storylines leading into this matchup is the Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell playing against the team he was playing for just three months ago. Harrell has taken it personally that the Clippers decided not to sign him and allowed the Lakers to swoop in to make an offer.
To be fair, Harrell was out of shape in the postseason and had to deal with the lingering effects of a calf injury. He was a liability for the Clippers on defense and the boards. If he had played like his regular season self in the playoffs, the Clippers may have eventually been the champions, rather than the Lakers.
Ivica Zubac, Harrell’s former teammate, will face Harrell as their respective teams’ first big man off the bench. Interestingly enough, Zubac was also a Laker a couple of seasons ago. Zubac isn’t as athletic as Harrell, but he has a major size advantage and could bully Harrell on the glass. On the other hand, Harrell is a strong finisher who could get Zubac into foul trouble if he’s not careful.
Which of these role players will win this matchup of former teammates?
Can the Lakers Find a Way Properly to Use Dennis Schroder?
Last season, the Lakers were not a perfect team, despite winning the NBA championship. Their guard rotation was sometimes a question mark. Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley and Danny Green had various issues with injuries and offensive consistency. They didn’t provide much self-created offense to help out LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers addressed this need in the offseason by signing former Oklahoma City Thunder member Schroder, a Sixth Man of the Year finalist in 2019-20 who averaged 18.9 points and 4 assists per game. The 27-year-old guard is extremely quick with crafty ball-handling abilities and a decent stroke from three-point range.
In his two preseason games, Schroder struggled to adjust to his new position on a Lakers team with more offensive mouths to feed. He averaged just 8.5 points and 2 assists with a whopping 3.5 turnovers in 24 minutes per contest. He also attempted only two total three-pointers, which is a concern regarding the floor spacing he brings off the ball.
At 6’1” and a slender 170 pounds, Schroder is not the type of player who is capable of making a big impact when he’s not getting consistent touches. The Lakers need to figure out ways to optimize Schroder and the rest of their roster if they are going to beat the Clippers and their stingy defense.
Will Serge Ibaka Shoot Confidently and Accurately From Three-Point Range?
Ibaka’s progression as a modern big man has been fascinating to watch. He started his career as an athletic shot-blocking and rim-running big man who couldn’t do much else. While the 31-year-old isn’t quite as bouncy as he was in his younger years, he has improved his defensive fundamentals and gradually expanded his shooting range out past the three-point line. He drained an incredible 21 of his 37 three-point attempts in his final nine games of the 2020 playoffs.
In this matchup against the Lakers, I’m focusing on Ibaka’s shooting. Playing the center position, he will likely match up against the Lakers’ Marc Gasol. Gasol is also a very smart defensive player, but he’s quite slow.
Ibaka’s shooting at the 5 spot could really open up the Clippers’ offense, bringing Gasol away from the paint where he is comfortable. He needs to have a quick trigger to ensure that the Lakers’ size on defense is neutralized.
Our Betting Preview’s Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers Predictions with Picks Opinion
I think both teams will be pretty motivated to bring their best effort in this contest. With healthy rosters, these are probably the two best teams in the NBA, and they have strong personnel on both sides of the ball.
While the Lakers did have a superior preseason performance to the Clippers, the Lakers’ regulars played much more than the Clippers’ regulars did. I think the Clippers’ players will be rested and ready to prove that they are equipped to beat the Lakers, despite what we saw from them in the playoffs a few months ago. The conclusion of our Clippers vs Lakers predictions are these picks:
- The Lakers are favored by a few points with all of the betting sites. I think you should bet the Clippers +3pts on the spread @ -105 with Bovada, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- I think the new additions for both teams will take some time to find offensive chemistry. Each team has great defensive personnel and should bring plenty of intensity on that end of the floor. Bet the under 222 total points @ -108 with Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.