The Lakers have reigned above the Clippers as the best basketball team in Los Angeles, and despite many calling for a changing of the guard in 2013, will prove that they are still the top dog in tonight’s NBA season opener.
Brining in Doc Rivers to coach an already super-talented roster makes the Clippers a sexy pick as a dark horse title contender, yet they will find the goings tough against their old intercity rivals out of the gate.
A year ago the Lakers entered the season with championship expectations but finished a disappointing 45-37 before being eliminated in the playoffs. Since then they have lost key players in Dwight Howard (free agency) and Kobe Bryant (injury) and now look a shadow of their former selves.
On the other hand the Clippers were not supposed to be as good a year ago as they ended up being, but they finished 56-26 and now look to build on that impressive season with a trip deep into the postseason.
The Clippers also swept the Lakers in four meetings in 2012 with an average margin of victory of 13.2 points per game.
Point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin form one of the top duos in the game today. Dunk City will look to get on track early and often as those two superstars feed off of one another against the team they share an arena with.
The arena sharing is a major reason the Lakers will come out and upset the Clippers on opening night. Earlier in the offseason Rivers suggested that his Clippers should be allowed to cover up the Laker memorabilia and ring of honor in the stadium when they are the ones playing in the arena. Thinking that this would shake the image of the Clippers being a JV team to the Lakers varsity, the move was interpreted as disrespectful by many.
Coming into this one, the Lakers will have a chip on their shoulder to defend both their arena and their honor. Yearning to prove to their opponent that they are still the class of Los Angeles basketball.
Kobe Bryant will be sitting this one out, but point guard Steve Nash will head into the game as close to 100 percent as possible. Nash may be the oldest player in the NBA at 39, but is also one of the best point guards in recent memory and will show he still has the ability to position his teammates for success.
Big man Pau Gasol will have his hands full against Griffin, but should he at least neutralize the big man the rest of the Lakers can thrive.
They can thrive because of how relatively unknown they are. If any of them show a flash of ability, look for a new face to take over the game for the Lakers.
Although they may sound like a rag tag bunch of free agent acquisitions, Steve Blake, Nick Young, and Shawne Williams will be on full display in this one. What better chance to emerge as an early unheralded star of the new NBA campaign.
Prediction: Lakers beat Clippers by five.