The Los Angeles Lakers had the best regular season record in the NBA last season. And in the bubble, where the unexpected was almost expected, form held true and they rolled to the NBA title. Now they will try to make it two rings in a row, and that begins with a meeting against the LA Clippers in the TNT-televised matchup that begins at 10:05 PM ET.
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We use the term "LA" for the Clippers because that is the way they have "stylized" it this season. And there is a change in leadership, as Ty Lue was elevated from his assistant's position to take over head coaching duties from Doc Rivers, who was also head of basketball operations. Patience with Rivers apparently ran out when the Clippers were up three games to one over Denver in the playoffs and lost three straight games to be eliminated. Steve Ballmer has huge plans for the franchise, for which he is pursuing a new home, as they have been more or less second-class tenants to the Lakers at Staples.
But the "big brothers" managed to pull off quite a heist in the off-season, as they signed free agent Montrezl Harrell, who won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award with the Clippers. He'll come off the bench for coach Frank Vogel, but the runner-up for that award, Dennis Schroder, who came over from Oklahoma City, is slated to start in the backcourt.
In the basketball betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Lakers are laying points:
Los Angeles Lakers -2.5
LA Clippers +2.5
Over 219.5 points -110
Under 219.5 points -110
The Lakers are transitioning a little in terms of the supporting cast for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. if they want to go with a big lineup, someone who could complement Davis was important. Marc Gasol can still be something of a defensive stopper (he is, in fact, a past Defensive Player of the Year) who has the added attraction of not only being a great passer out of the high post, but a capable outside shooter. As such, he provides more matchup problems for opponents than did Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee, who are no longer part of the picture.
It remains to be seen how much the Lakers are going to miss Rajon Rondo, who brought defense, leadership and a lot of intangibles to the table, not to mention being an experienced playoff standout. But there is depth in the backcourt, bolstered by the acquisition of sharp-shooting Wesley Matthews.
Don't sell the Clippers short; they are going to put the best defensive starting lineup in the NBA out there. Four of the five starters have been a member of the NBA All-Defensive team, including newcomer Serge Ibaka, and of course the Kawhi Leonard_Paul George combo is dynamite. Ivica Zubac is a pretty good rim protector in the middle. They don't match up badly against the Lakers defensively, but they aren't going to have the explosive bench they had last season. And that was such a strength for them. Well, Harrell is now property of the Lakers, and despite his occasional attitude problems, he's a big positive. And that points us to the defending champs in this lid-lifter.
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