Lakers vs. Clippers: Three Things to Know (7/30/20)
And we’re back!!!! For the first time since March 10, the Lakers will take the court in a game that counts. The opponent is the current No. 2 seed in the West, the L.A. Clippers, for a 6 p.m. tip from Walt Disney World in Orlando.
There’s a real ‘Who’s in, Who’s out?’ element to this game. What we know for sure is reserves Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams won’t play for the Clippers, while Patrick Beverley is questionable. Meanwhile, everybody is expected to be able to go for the Lakers, though they’ll check in to make sure Anthony Davis is feeling good after getting poked in the eye in the second scrimmage game. AD said on Wednesday that he expects to play, for the record.
As such, we should have the four stars, including LeBron/AD and Kawhi Leonard/Paul George on the floor. However, it’d be a surprise if any of the stars play big minutes. Take LeBron: he went for 15 minutes in the first scrimmage and 25 in the second before resting for the third. With seven more seeding games to go, will Frank Vogel keep him closer to that 25-minute mark, or will LeBron want to get up into the 30’s as he primes his body for the August 17th playoff opener? With that said, Kawhi Leonard played for 30 minutes against Sacramento on Monday, hitting just 6 of 22 FG’s, and 3 of 13 3’s. Will Doc Rivers match or surpass that minute amount? It could depend on what both coaches perceive to be at stake:
Seeding Game Significance
With their 49-14 record, the Lakers opened a significant advantage of 5.5 games over the 44-20 Clippers with just eight games remaining. That means the Lakers have a magic number of three to secure the No. 1 seed, meaning any combination of their wins, or Clippers losses. In other words, if the Clippers went 8-0, LAL would need to win just three of their eight games. Now, if the Lakers beat the Clippers, they’d need only one more win, or one more Clippers loss, to stamp in that top seed.
And so, while the Lakers would all but officially lock up the top seed with a victory, it’s incredibly likely that they’d soon secure the top seed even if they were to lose on Thursday. That’s why Vogel said after Wednesday’s practice that his team’s main priority is to stay as healthy as possible while getting in as good of a rhythm as possible before the playoffs. They will always play hard, and play to win, but the actual game results matter much less given the advantage they’ve given themselves.
The King in his Throne
After looking typically impressive in one half against Dallas (12 points on 4 of 6 FG’s plus five assists), and one game against Orlando (20 points on 6 of 15 FG’s with seven assists), LeBron rested against Washington, before returning to some intense practices this week. After Tuesday’s session, LeBron needed a taller chair than the one others had been using, and the chair that happened to be closest to the press conference area happened to look like a throne. Naturally!
I opened his media session, via Zoom from L.A., with a quick comment about the chair:
LeBron’s good spirit and energy has been pervasive throughout the roster since the Lakers got to Orlando. Ask any of his teammates or coaches, and get nothing but glowing reviews of how the team gets along. Last week, Jared Dudley did an Insta Live with us for 30 minutes, during which no fewer than four of his teammates joined the chat to tell him to hurry up and get down to Kyle Kuzma’s pizza party for his 25th birthday. It’s LeBron that has set that tone on and off the floor, and that will be visible moving forward in the bubble. Just watch the bench reactions – you can’t fake that kind of togetherness.