NBA Season Restart Preview: Lakers battle Clippers in potential Conference Final matchup

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Courtesy: CBS Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers battle the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA season restart opener.

Heriberto Perez, Staff Reporter

After a four-plus month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-2020 NBA season will officially restart this Thursday. A 22-team league that will resume actions in Orlando, Florida, in the “bubble” and following strict health protocols to keep players, referees, and staff safe.  

One of the games with which the NBA kicks off again will be the marquee matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Potential title contenders and Western Conference finalists will begin their battle in the bubble. 

The two best teams in the West are looking to start again with a win so they can get on track for the playoffs. The Lakers sit in the first seed in the west with a five and half-game lead over the Clippers with a record of 49-14 start as favorites, while the Clippers with their record of 44-20 will try to beat their city rival and take the lead in the conference sometime during this Disney World bubble.  

This season they have played three games with a balance in favor of LA Clippers with two victories on October 22, 2019 (112-102), and at Christmas on December 25, 2019 (111-106). The Lakers have suffered against its rival this season, only winning the game on March 8 with a score of 112-103. 

 Lakers looking for first championship in a decade 

By the hand of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, its top players, the Lakers are the favorites to win the NBA Finals this year. LeBron will also try to win his fourth NBA championship after winning with the Cleveland Cavaliers 4 years ago in 2016. 

 Complementing LeBron James, Anthony Davis are the new signees Dion Waiters and JR Smith, who will fight for some playing time along with the other Lakers superstars. Other key components to the Laker’s success have been key veterans in Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and Rajon Rondo. 

The issue here is that those three players had some on court and off court setbacks on this NBA restart; Dwight Howard got in trouble for not wearing a mask, and by making some inappropriate comments about vaccines. Rajon Rondo suffered a broken thumb in practice during this preseason on the bubble, and Avery Bradley is most likely to be sitting out tomorrow. 

The Lakers will need to see who is going to start in the backcourt, and some names like Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the new signees will step up and restart against the Clippers. 

The Lakers had a “good” warmup during the past few days by losing one game versus the Dallas Mavericks (104-108) and winning against the Orlando Magic (119-112) and the Washington Wizards (123-116).  

During the preseason, the Lakers starting rotation included Davis, James, JaVale McGee, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the first game versus Dallas. In that game, JaVale McGee and Quinn Cook were the top scorers with 13 points, followed by Davis’s 12 points 

The second game featured the same starters, but the difference maker was Kuzma as he tallied 25 points as the game’s leading scorer and grabbed seven rebounds. 

  James followed Kuzma with 20 pts, two rebounds and seven assists, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope marked 17 points. 

 In the last game, the Lakers gave rest to its two stars and gave more minutes to other players by starting Alex Caruso, Danny Green, Markieff Morris JaVale McGee, and K. Caldwell-Pope. The newly acquired JR Smith 20 points, and Dion Waiters 18 points, led the Lake Show in scoring. 

The Lakers have an exceptional roster to compete for the championship this year, and motivated players that are on the right path to capture the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship. 

 Clippers must prevail with depleted roster 

Although the Lakers lead 149-74 the Clippers in the all-time series, the Clippers have the Lakers number as of late defeating the Lake Show twice in the three matchup is this season. 

The good news for the Clippers is that they will restart the season without any injury on its roster. The unwelcome news is that the Clips will be without its two dynamic guards in Lou Williams and Patrick Beverly and powerful big man Montrezl Harrell. 

Willimas was caught picking up dinner at a strip club in Atlanta earlier this week, he will need to re-quarantine for ten days. Patrick Beverley is out for this game after returning on Monday to the bubble this week, and by just doing four days of quarantine, he is likely to miss the Clippers season restart 

 Harrell is still away from the NBA campus after attending to a personal family matter. 

On a positive note the Clippers have the best bench in the league scoring an average of over 50 points per game.  

This success has a lot to do with Lou Williams, who will miss this Thursday’s game because of the “personal reasons” mentioned above. For the record, no team has made this bench record in this century; the last time that a bench made such an achievement was back in the 1970s. 

The one-two punch of the Clippers in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will return to action on Thursday night against their city rival, but Leonard has a bit of rust to shake off. 

 In the scrimmages, Leonard shot a combined 12-of-46 from the field. For the Clippers sake hopefully the defending Finals Most Valuable Player can shake off the cobwebs of a long layoff. 

Kawhi will need to improve his numbers starting this Thursday, and head coach Doc Rivers will need him after the missing scoring of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell for this game. 

The Clipper’s starting lineup for this restart game could be Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard.  

These four players were the base on the scrimmages, so by missing one place in this starting lineup, Doc Rivers will choose between Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Joakim Noah to complete his five-starters for this crucial game against the Lakers.  

Leonard and George’s scoring capability’s (26.9 points per game and 21 respectively) can help the Clippers to restart in good shape this Thursday in Orlando.  

Even though they will miss three key playersthe Clippers can still make a run at its first championship in franchise history. 

The season restart game for both teams will be Thursday, July 30 at 7 p.m. M.T. and will be broadcasted on TNT. 

Heriberto Perez may be reached at [email protected]