NBA Dream Playoff Preview: LA Awaits Potential Clippers v Lakers Series

April 21, 2012

The Clippers and Lakers might share Staples Center, but they do not share any love for each other. Three heated regular season games have already been played with numerous hard fouls, thunderous dunks, non-stop trash talk, and 11 technicals, but when the smoke cleared the Lakers won 2 out of those three matchups.

What would happen if the Lakers and Clippers squared off in the playoffs for the first time ever? Pure pandemonium at Staples.

Currently, the Lakers occupy the third seed in the West with a record of 40-24, while Lob City sits in the fourth slot at 39-24. As such, the standings indicate that the Clippers and Lakers won't meet in the first round.

Unless the Clippers slip to the fifth seed with three games to go, they won’t meet in the second round either, but there is a possibility they might meet in the Conference Finals. If that were to happen it would be great for basketball in the city, as the magnitude of the rivalry could cause a San Andreas fault-like division of Los Angeles.

Traditionally, the Lakers have dominated their crosstown brethren since the Clippers moved to Los Angeles in the 1980's. In order to maintain their status as the city's top dog, here are the keys for a Lakers victory, as well as an analysis and prediction of what to expect in this potential epic matchup:

The 5 Steps Needed for the Lakers to Bring Clipper Darrell to Tears. Again.

1) The Lakers need to outrebound the Clippers, just as they have done in each of the previous 3 meetings.

Pau Gasol will need to show that intensity on the boards that we've seen glimpses of this year. A few prerequisites for winning the rebound battle will be to keep Andrew Bynum on the floor, out of foul trouble, and free from any ejections.

The Lakers should also avoid having their guards aggressively crash the offensive glass on every play because this can lead to fast break baskets and swing the momentum into the Clippers favor.

2) The Lakers will need to get Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan in early foul trouble so that Ramon Sessions can have an easier time penetrating the lane and kicking out to open shooters. Also, with Griffin off the floor there are less dunks, which can mean a less upbeat Clipper team.

3) The Lakers will need to avoid switching on their screen-roll defense as much as possible. Crafty guards like Chris Paul have confused the Lakers on pick-and-roll switches, causing the Laker bigs to be matched up on a guard.

The Lakers will need to be very vocal on defense because Paul likes to exploit these situations. Preventing Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol from looking like two elephants chasing a jackrabbit on the court should be a priority.

4) Over the years in the playoffs, the Lakers have habitually double-teamed the post on defense, sometimes in an excessive manner. The Purple and Gold must avoid doing this not only because they match-up well enough man-for-man, but also because the Clippers are 6th in the league in 3 pointers made.

The Clippers have averaged 9 threes in their 3 meetings against the Lakers. Therefore, the Lakers will need to solidify their perimeter defense, even though they are already ranked 11th in the NBA in defending the 3.

5) Although the Lakers have gone 4-2 with Kobe out of the lineup, he is still more valuable to them than the Eight Elvises might be to an art collector. Despite the Clippers ranking 26th in opponent’s 3-point percentage, Kobe and the guards will need to play to their strengths and attack the painted area.

After shooting a dreadful 30% from behind the arc in the first half of the season, the Lakers have improved minimally since the All-Star break, as their current percentage still hovers around 32%. As such, the Lakers have been mediocre from distance and will need to work inside in order to be successful.

The Matchups

Point Guards                                                                                               

LAL Ramon Sessions 2012 Season: 11.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.2 TO
2012 v Clippers: 20 ppg, 10.5 apg, 3.5 TO (*2 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: N/A

LAC Chris Paul 2012 Season: 19.3 ppg, 9 apg, 2.1 TO
2012 v Lakers: 19.7 ppg, 11.3 apg, 1.3 TO (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 21.9 ppg, 11.1 apg, 3.0 TO (*23 games)

If the stats of each point guard is any indicator, then Paul and Sessions will greatly impact this prospective series. Chris Paul definitely has the upper hand in this match up as far as individual statistics are concerned, but when it comes to helping his team's chances, the disparity between these two is not as wide as one would think.

Sessions will be pivotal to the Laker attack, as his ability to penetrate can put the Clippers' bigs in foul trouble, while also creating good looks for the Lakers frontline.

Likewise, Paul is a master at breaking down defenses with his eel-like ability to slip inside the paint and manufacture shots. If Paul can force the Lakers bigs to switch onto him in the pick-and-roll, he will benefit by finding himself isolated against a slower defender.

Both guys are capable of leading their teams to victory, but Paul is a veteran whose previous playoff failures at the hands of the Lakers will provide him with extra motivation and bad intentions.  Expect him to get the better of this matchup.

Shooting Guards

LAL Kobe Bryant 2012 Season: 28.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, 43% FG        
2012 v Clippers: 32.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 53% FG (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 27.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 45% FG (*56 games)

LAC Randy Foye 2012 Season: 10.6 ppg, 2.3 apg, 40% FG
2012 v Lakers: 8.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, 27% FG (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: N/A

The wily playoff vet Kobe Bryant versus the inexperienced Randy Foye? This appears to be a mismatch. But most likely there will be defensive switches where Caron Butler, Kenyon Martin, or Nick Young will also be assigned to guard Kobe. There’s a strong possibility that Nick Young will assume the starting role in the playoffs solely because of the matchup problems Bryant creates.

Kobe knows the magnitude of the LA rivalry, so he will be motivated to put up big numbers in this series. Still, Kobe has to stay within the offense and use his twin 7-footers, as the Lakers' post game will be important in this series if the Lakers are to advance.

Foye is a combo guard who stretches the floor with his consistency from long range. The Lakers will need to close out on Foye, as he is shooting a respectable 38% from behind the arc and doesn't usually put the ball on the floor.

Small Forwards                                                                                        

LAL Metta World Peace 2012 Season: 7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
2012 v Clippers: 4.0 ppg, 4 rpg (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 12.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg (*45 games)

LAC Caron Butler 2012 Season: 12.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
2012 v Lakers: 19 ppg, 4.7 rpg (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 19.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg (*6 games)

The capricious World Peace would be going against another erratic player in 2012 in Caron Butler. Who gets the better of this matchup could be determined by the flip of a coin because both guys have been wildly inconsistent.

World Peace is more than capable of performing, as shown this season by his numbers when Kobe is absent.  However, he often defers and drifts off to three-point land when Kobe is on the floor.

World Peace is most dangerous on the block with his back to the basket where he can cause matchup problems because of his strength. Coach Mike Brown will need to exploit this matchup when the offense becomes stagnant.

Butler might be able to edge World Peace with his versatility, as unlike Peace, he can effectively put the ball on the floor or pull up from midrange. The fact that Caron has played like a man possessed when facing his former team makes it likely that he will get the better of World Peace if this series happens.

Power Forwards                                                                           

LAL Pau Gasol 2012 Season: 17.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 80% FT
2012 v Clippers: 16.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 58% FT (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 17 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 75% FT (*56 games)

LAC Blake Griffin 2012 Season: 20.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 51% FT
2012 v Lakers: 21 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 41% FT (*3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: N/A

Blake Griffin has a rendezvous with destiny to become one of the best players in league, but he first needs to add to his offensive arsenal. Griffin embarrassed Pau by arguably dunking on him twice in an April 4th battle. As such, there will surely be bad blood and hard fouls.

Pau will need to lure Griffin away from the rim by hitting his patented 20-footer with regularity. This will give the Lakers an easier time on the boards with Griffin being outside the paint.

Unlike Pau, Griffin will need to decline the 20-foot jumpers that he has become accustomed to shooting. Instead, Griffin must post up the weaker Pau and stay active around the rim for his electrifying put-backs and highlight dunks.

Although Pau will claim the advantage because of his prior playoff experience, Griffin will bring something extra due to it being his inaugural exposure to the playoffs. This should be an exciting and competitive match to watch.


LAL Andrew Bynum 2012 Season: 18.9 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.0 bpg
2012 v Clippers: 22.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.7 bpg (* 3 games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: 9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg (* 51 games)

LAC DeAndre Jordan 2012 Season: 7.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg
2012 v Lakers: 8.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg (3* games)
Playoff Averages Last 3 years: N/A

In this matchup, foul trouble will be a factor because the guards on both squads possess the ability to penetrate and create contact. So keeping both the centers on the floor will be important in order to keep a defensive presence in the middle.

Bynum has shown disdain for the Clippers throughout his career, as his career-high of 42 points was set against the franchise in 2009. Similar to most of the other NBA teams this year, the Clippers will need to throw frequent double teams at the Lakers All-Star center because Jordan has had problems defending him one-on-one.

Jordan is without question the Clippers' defensive anchor, not only because he blocks shots, but also because he alters so many other shot attempts. Jordan’s length will bother the Lakers and discourage them from attacking the basket, similar to the effect Bynum and Gasol will have on the Clippers.

The other issue that could plague Jordan is free throw shooting, as some teams employ the “Hack a Shaq” routine against him. The Lakers will be able to take control of the paint late in games because DeAndre often has been benched during the fourth quarter due to his anemic 53% free throw shooting.


The Clipper and Laker benches are 26th and 30th respectively in the NBA in point production, but the Clipper bench certainly has the better offensive weaponry with the addition of Nick Young.

Still, the Lakers usually keep a starter or two on the floor with their second unit to stabilize tempo and to avoid stagnation on offense.

The Clipper bench would surely win an offensive shootout with the Lakers subs, but on the defensive end, they could struggle because of a thin front line which can easily be punished if Bynum or Gasol stays on the floor with the second unit.

The Verdict

A potential Laker-Clipper series would go 6 tough games with the Lakers emerging from the rubble triumphant in the battle for L.A.

By Kareem Arnold
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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