The Los Angeles Clippers (0-0) open their season against the Los Angeles Lakers (0-1), who are coming off a 123-109 loss to the reigning champs Golden State Warriors. This matchup marks Kawhi Leonard’s first game since he suffered a torn ACL during the 2021 Playoffs.
Which team will win the battle for Los Angeles? Odds are found below, as well as predictions, key matchups, lineups, and injuries.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Betting Odds
The Clippers enter this game favored; the spread sits at -5.5 Clippers with an ugly -210 moneyline. The Lakers, on the other hand, have a +195 moneyline, so they would theoretically need to win this game 34% of the time to be profitable. Since LeBron joined the Lakers, they are 4-11 (26.6%) against the Clippers in the regular season, including a current seven-game losing streak.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Prediction
I am taking the Clippers to cover 5.5 points here. The Lakers shot 10/40 from three-point land against the Warriors, and it doesn’t appear that percentage will drastically increase due to a rangeless roster. In addition, they committed 21 turnovers and struggled to control the glass. These are not outlier stats, as these problems will plague the Lakers all season.
Despite LeBron James entering year twenty, he can still stuff the box score and flirt with a triple-double. However, the Clippers own perhaps the best defensive duo to throw at him: Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. LeBron will have to grind for every shot attempt, and this even continues if the pair is resting because the Clippers own an endless supply of defensive wings (Morris, Covington, Batum, Mann, etc.).
On the other end, the Lakers legitimately do not have a quality defender to throw at George or Leonard. They severely lack forward depth, and their guards are undersized. Outside of LeBron, who at this point is a neutral defender, the best option is Juan Toscano-Anderson or Austin Reaves. While Anthony Davis is an elite rim protector, he cannot step out and guard their off the dribble shooting.
Davis definitely holds the advantage over Ivica Zubac, but he doesn’t utilize his talent to the highest degree. He too often settles for spot up jumpers instead of sealing his opponent and shooting a hook shot or spinning for a layup. Covington is an intriguing small-ball center who could compete against Davis if he’s in jump shooter mode.
Meanwhile, Westbrook needs the ball to be effective because he’s one of the worst high volume spot up three-point shooters in NBA history. That means LeBron or Davis do not control the possession, which only decreases expected points per possession. Their big three is simply incohesive, injury prone, and mostly out of their primes.
LeBron and Davis are nearly a wash with George and Kawhi, but the talent margin for the remainder of the rosters is astronomically large. The Clippers main six bench guys are Wall, Kennard, Powell (19 PPG!), Batum, Covington, and Mann. I would consider every single one of those players superior to any Lakers bench player. Even if the Lakers starting lineup can somehow keep the score even, it’s exceedingly likely that the Clippers bench decimates their counterpart.
The three-point shooting difference alone can cause the Clippers to take an insurmountable lead. While the Lakers will be one of the worst three-point shooting teams, the Clippers are fresh off a season where they shot 37.4 3PT%. The Lakers cannot punish the Clippers on the glass when they go small, and the Clippers’ stable of lengthy defensive wings will force plenty of turnovers by wreaking havoc on the passing lanes. Overall, it’s a terrible matchup for the Lakers starting lineup and especially their bench.
- Clippers are 10-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings in Los Angeles
- Under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings in Los Angeles
Can Anthony Davis exploit mismatches? Will Kawhi experience rust? Check out key matchups below that help determine the outcome of the contest.
Anthony Davis vs. Robert Covington
The Clippers would love to play small-ball, and Covington has experience manning the center position in this philosophy during his time with the Westbrook/Harden Rockets. The potential benefits include hyper-spacing and the ability to switch everything, which neutralizes the pick and roll entirely and forces the Lakers to consistently score in isolation.
Davis has to punish the Clippers and prove that the benefits are not worth bleeding points down low. This would cause Lue to abandon small-ball and force Zubac to play extended minutes. Subsequently, the Clippers couldn’t damage the Lakers through three-point shooting at every position. In addition, they couldn’t switch everything, which allows the Lakers to find mismatches and exploit them for a high expected points per possession.
AD on defense. AD on offense. pic.twitter.com/KtxjToOxy4
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 19, 2022
Kawhi Leonard vs. Rust
Across 11 games of the 2021 Playoffs before he tore his ACL, Kawhi averaged 30.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.1 SPG on an absurd 57/39/88 shooting split. During that stretch, he was arguably the best player in the world. If Kawhi returns as if he never missed time, then the Lakers prospects look extremely grim. He would be the most dangerous offensive threat on the court (yes, even more so than LeBron) while providing very good defense. The Lakers must hope his shot, defense, and conditioning are rusty; otherwise, it’s uncertain how they can keep pace with the Clippers offense.
2️⃣ days away from the regular season so here are some highlights from #️⃣2️⃣. pic.twitter.com/fJTdGWvrb7
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) October 18, 2022
Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineups
Los Angeles Clippers Injuries: Reggie Jackson (P)
Los Angeles Lakers Injuries: Anthony Davis (P), LeBron James (P), Dennis Schroder (O), Thomas Bryant (O), Troy Brown Jr (O)