The rivalry between the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers has been the biggest storyline of this NBA season, right from the day the latter acquired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The LA Lakers are in the middle of a renaissance under the leadership of LeBron James while their cross-town rivals are in the middle of an uprising, finally exhibiting the makings of a championship team.
The LA Clippers held the edge in the first two games between these franchises this season but the LA Lakers fought back in the third tie on the back of spectacular showings from King James and Anthony Davis.
LA Clippers vs LA Lakers - Round 4
Who'll come out on top when these two teams meet for the fourth, albeit under different circumstances. It will all eventually boil down to individual player battles that'll decide the victor of the war. Let us look at the same.
#1 Kawhi Leonard vs LeBron James
Let's get the obvious yet the most important player battle out of the way first. Let's just go ahead and claim that how LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard fare against each other will account for half of whatever the result of LA Clippers vs LA Lakers is.
As far as LeBron is concerned, he's looked good so far in Orlando, especially in the LA Lakers' scrimmage against the Magic. However, he's roughly played only 40 minutes combined and that's not enough to decide whether he'll be able to outrightly dominate his LA Clippers counterpart if he's required to play extended minutes.
Kawhi Leonard, meanwhile, heads into this tie of the back of some bubble trouble. His shots simply aren't falling and with his side missing key scorers in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell for the tie, he simply needs to do better than the 12 of 46 he's managed from the field in the scrimmages.
The Klaw barely shows signs of frustration so expect his defense to be top-notch irrespective of his showing on the other end of the court for the LA Clippers.
#2 Paul George vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Paul George may not have gotten an extended run in any of the three scrimmages for the LA Clippers, but his shooting form seems to be impeccable right now. PG13 has gone 10 of 19 from downtown in the practice games and that's a seriously positive sign with Kawhi failing to knock down his shots.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has blown hot and cold in Orlando, but his biggest challenge will be to keep George quiet against the LA Lakers. KCP is expected to fill in for Avery Bradley and that role primarily requires non-stop defensive play.
Don't expect to see this matchup all the time during the course of the tie between LA Clippers and LA Lakers. Paul George is likely to mark either LeBron and Anthony Davis in most cases. But when George has the ball in his hands, Caldwell-Pope will be expected to put his body on the line and play clampdown defense.
#3 Marcus Morris vs Anthony Davis
The LA Lakers received a big boost on Wednesday when Anthony Davis attended practice without his black glasses on. He's likely to feature against the LA Clippers and will be looking to torment the paint once again. the Defensive Player of the Year candidate is also expected to swat a few shots away, so who can counter him?
Well, while Ivica Zubac matches him in size from the LA Clippers, it's ultimately Marcus Morris whose 3-and-D effort will come in handy to counter the threat of AD. Morris' ability to stretch the floor given AD's affinity to stick to the paint while defending should open up a lot of opportunities for the former.
Morris has only recently returned to the bubble so he may not be in his full elements yet. But if he does enough to make Davis take bad shots, Zubac or Kawhi should be available to snag the reboards.
#4 Landry Shamet vs Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma didn't play the LA Lakers' final scrimmage game against Washington Wizards but had a fantastic 25-point burst against the Orlando Magic. He will be Frank Vogel's go-to guy from the bench and is expected to deliver.
The LA Clippers, meanwhile, will be without their Sixth Man of the Year candidates Sweet Lou and Trezz here. Terance Mann has been getting extended minutes in the scrimmages so far but expect Landry Shamet to be LA Clippers' main threat from the bench.
How both Shamet and Kuzma compare to each other in terms of their production will hand either the LA Clippers or the LA Lakers an edge.
#5 Ivica Zubac vs JaVale McGee
The most ancillary battle of this tie belongs to the two starting centers. While neither Zubac nor McGee are averaging otherworldly numbers, their hustle on both ends of the field is crucial to dictate the flow of proceedings inside the paint.
Zubac has actually grabbed eight offensive boards in the three games between the two sides so far. But given that he's only recently made it to the NBA bubble, he's unlikely to be at his best and McGee will be hoping to take advantage of that.
Published 30 Jul 2020, 12:41 IST