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The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are viewed as the last stage of what will be a gauntlet NBA Western Conference playoffs. If all goes well, it will be their first ever matchup in the playoffs and it will be for the conference title.
Both teams have a super star looking for a championship with a third different team. Both teams have a supporting star ready to experience the finals and prove themselves on the big stage. These teams are stacked with talent and they have even beefed up for this potential meeting.
Will the Los Angeles teams give us this most anticipated series?
The Clippers four leading scorers are very different and very dangerous. Kawhi Leonard (26.9 points, 7.3 assists per game) and Paul George (21.0 points per game) provide a massive punch at the outset.
Leonard is the ultimate player, able to score at will and defend most positions on the court. George is a great defender in his own right and can also score with the best of them. Both players will have to set the tone early but luckily for them they won’t have to carry the whole load.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell average a combined 37.3 points per game off the bench. When the two big guns need a rest these two guys come in and provide their own one-two punch. Harrell provides much needed defense inside while Williams is another ball handler/passer on the court who can also score at will.
Head coach Doc Rivers has the luxury of keeping each of them fresh throughout the game because all four of these players will be on the court down the stretch and it’s a line-up that will be tough to defend.
The Lakers are looking to win a record tying 17th NBA championship. LeBron James (25.7 points, 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds per game) is looking for his fourth NBA title overall and his first in the Western Conference. Anthony Davis (26.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game) is looking to have a long playoff run of any kind.
Davis leads the Lakers in four statistical categories while James leads the entire league in assists. Both players will have to continue putting up monster numbers if they (and the team) wish to achieve these goals.
The Lakers have gotten a disappointing performance from Kyke Kuzma this season. After moving to the bench, Kuzma is averaging a career low 12.5 points per game. The Lakers were counting on him to be a viable third scorer but he hasn’t been able to find the rhythm off the pine.
The team has a host of role players players but will be missing guards Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo for the restart. Bradley was a solid scorer and provided much needed defense against wing players. Rondo’s savvy veteran play will be sorely missed, being that the Lakers have very few ball handlers.
In response they’ve added Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. Waiters (when motivated) can provide a scoring punch, with the ability to create his own shots. Smith can be a deadly three points shooter at times but has a history of making key mistakes in big moments.
Both will have to assimilate quickly to the team’s philosophy as both will see plenty of playing time.
They still have a plethora of good defenders in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. The offense remains a problem, especially when James is not on the floor.
The Lakers have the number one seed but even if they weren’t in the bubble it wouldn’t have mattered much. Their biggest problem will be matching the Clippers bucket for bucket. The Lakers lead the league in made field goals, while the Clippers lead in made free throws.
Down the stretch the Clippers best players can force the issue and make the officials blow the whistle on borderline calls. The Lakers don’t have such a luxury and they will probably have to build a big lead to secure a victory.
Right now the Clippers have to be considered the favorites to win their first ever NBA championship.
The Clippers lead the season series 2-1 but the Lakers won the last game in convincing fashion. The teams will open up the season against each other on Thursday night.
Let’s see how they fare on their quest for greatness.