The last battle between these two West Coast giants feels two worlds away. The Lakers edged out the win in a tough-fought affair 112-103 with the ‘side-kicks’ shining; forward Anthony Davis leading the Lakers with 30 points and guard/forward Paul George finished with 31 points.
The previous meeting was played in front of a sell-out crowd at Staples Centre – a factor that no doubt contributed to the high stakes of the contest. This time, however, the fourth meeting between the two rivals will be played out of LA, out of California and in the Orlando Bubble. Without fans.
In terms of the form, the Lakers appeared to be hitting their stride prior to the stoppage with LeBron James and co. defeating Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks two days before beating their upcoming opponents – the Clippers.
In the bubble, the Lakers have impressed somewhat in their three scrimmages so far. Beating both the Wizards and the Magic comfortably after showing signs of rust in the opening scrimmage loss to the Dallas Mavericks. New additions J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters have impressed so far, in the 123-116 victory against the Wizards. Waiters finished with 18 points, J.R. with 20 points (and 6 3’s).
A big factor to keep an eye on (pardon the pun) heading into the highly anticipated match-up is the status of Anthony Davis. It is currently unclear whether Davis will appear in the derby game with an eye injury. As mentioned before, Davis was able to take advantage of the lack of Clippers’ height and score 30 points in the last meeting. Davis’ inclusion could be the deciding factor in this game, despite the boost of Waiters’ and Smith’s presence.
On the Clippers end, things have been less smooth compared to their Laker counterparts. Off the court, veteran player and huge asset Lou Williams was caught violating quarantine in a hugely covered story in which Williams attended a strip club with rapper Jack Harlow. As a result, the Clippers will be without Williams on Friday who is isolating for ten days.
With the absence of Williams in mind, the Clippers roster is still strong with no players opting out of playing in the bubble. Moreover, the time off will surely have benefited Kawhi Leonard and co-star Paul George. George is an MVP candidate when healthy and is capable of carrying this Clippers roster to a win against the Lakers even without Kawhi Leonard. Look out for George and also Landry Shamet off the bench who is sure to make the most of Williams missing time.
To circle back to the element and impact of having no fans and this factor will be of large benefit to the Clippers who are ridiculously out-numbered whenever they play the Lakers in LA. To look further ahead than this match-up, if the two LA teams are to meet in the playoffs, Kawhi and co. are sure to be thankful that they don’t have thousands of Laker fans screaming at them for a series.
The bigs for the Clippers are going to be crucial to counteract the (possible, likely) presence of Daivs in this match-up. During the break, the Clippers signed veteran centre and long-time Cleveland hater Joakim Noah. Noah, who stands at 6’11, offers more of a rim-protecting presence compared to the more lively and agile Montrezl Harrell.
What the Clippers do lack in traditional height, they do make up for in bodies. Marcus Morris, Harrell, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green, on top of Noah, are all bodies the Lakers can throw on Davis or LeBron at any given time.
To sum up, this match-up between the two LA teams will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. The absence of fans will have a huge impact on the game – most likely a positive one for the Clippers. Furthermore, the battle in the frontcourt could well decide the outcome of the game. Will the pure skill and ability of Davis win out or will the stamina and versatility of the Clippers be too much for the Lakers? Either way, it’s going to be a historic event.