The NBA’s opening night slate features two great games: the New Orleans Pelicans versus the Toronto Raptors first and then the LA Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers second. While the Pelicans-Raptors game offers plenty of intrigue, it’s the battle of Los Angeles on Tuesday that more people will be tuning into (10:30 p.m. ET on TNT).
Clippers superstar Paul George will miss the game recovering from a shoulder injury, but this should still be a competitive battle between two NBA title contenders. Will the Lakers’ size inside prevail or will the Clippers’ versatility help them to victory? In this NBA preview, USAbetting will discuss some factors around the game with our LA Lakers vs Clippers predictions. Then we will offer advice and picks on the betting lines from the best sportsbooks that serve the United States of America.
Will Kawhi Leonard’s Preseason Rust Continue on Opening Night?
It’s only natural for a player coming off a career-defining championship run to ease off a little bit in the preseason. Compared to June’s NBA Finals in which Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to a six-game series win, there’s just so much less motivation at this point in the season.
Indeed, Kawhi has been somewhat rusty in the two preseason games he has played for the Clips. He has shot 8-of-25 from the field, 3-of-11 from three-point range and 1-of-2 from the free-throw line. He’s played just 33 total minutes, which is significantly less than what Lakers superstars Anthony Davis (83 minutes) and LeBron James (79 minutes) have played. Both of the Lakers guys have also looked more like themselves in their minutes.
Leonard’s workload on offense will need to be pretty heavy until Paul George returns for the team. His squad can’t afford more poor shooting from him.
Will Lakers’ Rebounding Advantage Make the Difference?
Not counting the final game where nearly all their regulars rested, the Lakers outrebounded their opponents by an average of nearly eight rebounds per game in the preseason.
It is pretty clear that Los Angeles’ more popular squad is going to be an excellent rebounding team this year. They have Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and LeBron James, all of whom are among the best rebounders at their positions, no matter what position they play. JaVale McGee also contributes a lot of strength inside when he checks in.
The Clippers could struggle to rebound missed shots this season. While Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are strong rebounders from the wing, lots of the Clippers’ bigger players are not known for great rebounding. JaMychal Green and Ivica Zubac are solid rebounders, but neither is close to the level of Davis or Howard. Montrezl Harrell and Mo Harkless have their strengths, but rebounding is not one of them.
If the Lakers are serious about attacking the glass, the Clippers could have some major trouble in this game.
Can Lou Williams Stay Aggressive?
With no Paul George for the Clippers, the squad is at a disadvantage on offense compared to the LA Lakers. Leonard is the clear first option, but Williams is the best of the rest of the squad. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner averaged 20 points and 5.4 assists in 26.6 minutes per game last season.
One of the Lakers’ weaknesses is backcourt defense. Avery Bradley is solid on the perimeter and Danny Green is good against bigger wings. Players like Quinn Cook and Rajon Rondo will not provide much resistance against Williams, especially if he gets hot.
Williams will likely need to play like a star, pumping in something along the lines of 25 points and six assists, if the Clippers are to win this game.
Our Betting Preview’s LA Lakers vs Clippers Picks & Predictions Advice
Without Paul George and with less consistent rotations in the preseason, I don’t think the Clippers are anywhere near their potential right now. The Lakers spent more time developing chemistry in the preseason and look to be ready to play at a high level right away, even without forward Kyle Kuzma.
The Lakers will assert their rebounding advantage and do a strong job shutting off the paint when the Clippers are on offense. I expect a Lakers win of around five to 10 points. So here are our Lakers vs Clippers predictions for this NBA opening night preview:
- The Lakers are favorites in this game. However, I still recommend betting on the Lakers -2.5pts on the spread @ best betting odds of -110 with 5Dimes, Intertops, BetOnline or Bookmaker. It is -115 with Bovada.
- Between the Lakers’ rebounding and interior defense against a depleted Clippers squad, as well as potential first-game jitters, I don’t see a terribly high-scoring game here. The best option is to go under 227pts @ -110 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.