LA Clippers (0-0) at LA Lakers (0-0)
When: Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020
Where: Staples Center,
Los Angeles, CA
Time: 10:00 ET | TV: TNT
Opening Odds: Lakers -2.5/223.5
It was only a little over two months ago when the Los Angeles Lakers finished off the Miami Heat in the longest NBA season ever and will now start over after the shortest offseason in history. The Lakers will start their title defense when they ‘host’ the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night on TNT. After playing in a bubble for the entire postseason run, teams will now play on their home courts with little or no fans to start. This will be a rematch of last years season opener that saw the Clippers finish with a 112-102 in Kawhi Leonard’s first game with the team. Before that season opener, the talk around the league was that Leonard and Paul George would immediately bring the Clippers a championship. That didn’t work out as the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. That not only prevented an anticipated showdown with the Lakers but also cost head coach Doc Rivers his job. Former assistant Tyronn Lue has replaced him. The Lakers appear to have improved their team in the short offseason with the additions of reigning Sixth Man of the Year and former Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell, the Sixth Man runner-up in guard Dennis Schroder, veteran center Marc Gasol and guard Wesley Matthews. The Clippers will rely on forward Marcus Morris Sr., guard Patrick Beverley and center Ivica Zubac. In the offseason, the Clippers signed forward Serge Ibaka, who will fill the void left by Harrell. Ibaka averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season with the Toronto Raptors. The Lakers are 2.5-point favorites in this contest with a total of 223.5. These teams split the season series with two wins apiece with the last meeting being a 103-101 Lakers win in July. Anthony Davis had his 20th 30-point performance of the season, finishing with a game-high 34-points. The Clippers are 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings with the under cashing in all of them.
The Clippers’ problem could be a lack of team chemistry between Leonard and George, who both basically disappeared the the playoffs. Ibaka was likely brought in to counter matchups with the Lakers, as well as players like the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, who the Clippers couldn’t handle in the playoffs. Lue, championship winning coach, has experience dealing with superstar players and should help deflate some of the tension reportedly among the team. Newcomers Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard also will be relied upon for production as will Lou Williams, one of the league’s top-scoring reserves. Williams averaged 18.2 points and 5.6 assists during the regular season. Leonard scored a club-high 27.1 points and grabbed 7.1 rebounds per game during the regular season, while George averaged 21.5 and 5.7 rebounds. The Clippers will be at Denver on Christmas Day.
After their record-tying 17th NBA Championship in October, the Lakers are easily the favorites to repeat and win the 2021 NBA Championship. LeBron James hasn’t slowed down and Anthony Davis is establishing himself as one of the best players in the league. Maybe the Clippers can learn something from these two on how to play as superstars. Trading for Schroder and signing Matthews and Gasol is designed to take a bit of the load off James’ and Davis’ shoulders early in the season, while Harrell will provide a depth the Lakers lacked last year. James won his fourth NBA title and averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and a league-high 10.2 assists per game during the 2019-20 regular season. Davis averaged a team-high 26.1 points with 9.3 boards and finished third in the league in blocks at 2.3 per game. The Lakers will also play on Christmas, hosting Dallas.
The Lakers are once again loaded, while the Clippers are still trying to figure things out. Oddly enough, the team designated as the road team in these regular season matchups usually wins. But I’m not ready to jump on the Clippers yet. The Lakers are too strong and will come out hot.
Check out who Bobby Babowski has on his Free NBA Picks page for today.
Pick: Lakers -2.5