Christmas means a number of things, one of which is that basketball is on television all day today.
One of the biggest highlights of the night is a matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
There are a number of noteworthy storylines heading into the battle for Los Angeles.
This summer was intense, and that’s likely the headliner. Kawhi Leonard was widely expected to wind up as a Laker; he’s not. He’s a Clipper. Paul George was traded to the Clippers from the Oklahoma City Thunder. George rested after rotator cup surgery and he’s back causing havoc.
The Clippers were already a complete team before Leonard and George got there. Currently sitting at 22-10 and in fourth place in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Clippers have Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac and Patrick Beverley all back from last season.
Leonard and George are icing to the decadent cake. Leonard is averaging 25.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.8 steals and George is averaging 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals for the LA.
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Clippers Outlook vs. Lakers on Christmas
Everyone on the Clippers roster will be available on Christmas.
Currently on a three-game losing streak, the Lakers, who lead the NBA’s Western Conference at 24-6 have jumped around as the underdog and a slight favorite.
The Lakers lost their last matchup against the Clippers in October. The Clippers took the first round of the “Battle for L.A.” defeating the Lakers, 112-102, behind Kawhi Leonard’s 30 points.
How big is this matchup?
“Christmas will be fun, just like any other Christmas,” Lakers sharpshooter, Danny Green tells me. “And it will show who the top in the league is.”
That’s a big statement!
Green, who was Leonard’s teammate on the Toronto Raptors last year, led all Lakers scorers with 28 points in the loss. The Lakers are a different team last season than they are now.
I told Green that I think he’ll be the Lakers’ secret down the stretch. He was critical of himself.
“I hope so man,” he said.
“Well, I gotta perform so as long as we can perform I think anybody on our team can be an X-factor. For me defensively obviously stopping guys but, offensively if I know that I make shots like I know I can, doing little things I can be an X-factor and that’s my goal for preparing for the playoffs.”
The Lakers have adjusted since their first game against the Clippers.
Concurrently, Anthony Davis and LeBron James found their rhythms.
“I didn’t think we were going to be able to connect as fast,” Davis told me recently.
“Just because of the fact, he had a lot of stuff going on in the summer with Space Jam. So we didn’t get a lot of time to work out together. And then we had a short training camp, had to go to China and all of that stuff. So, I’m surprised that he had a little connection right now.”He [LeBron James] made a joke [and said]: ‘We’re not peanut butter and jelly right now, we’re like peanut butter and bananas.’ So we’re getting there. We’re constantly getting there game by game.”
Lakers’ Massive Overhaul This Summer
Los Angeles had a huge makeover this summer. The Lakers traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks; which included the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft to acquire Anthony Davis.
Davis has played inspired basketball so far this season for the Lakers. Despite missing a couple of games due to injury, the Kentucky product is averaging 27.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.7 blocks.
Six Lakers players returned from last season’s roster. Insert LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso.
LA also added some vets. In addition to Green, the Lakers added the now-injured DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker.