- Lakers begin defense of their NBA title with opener against Staples co-tenant Clippers
- Both teams went through major roster overhauls around their star players
- Check the odds, analysis and our betting prediction in this all-LA matchup below
The Los Angeles Lakers begin defense of their NBA title just 70+ days after claiming it, hosting the Los Angeles Clippers — an opening night rematch between the cross-city rivals from a year ago.
While both teams went through significant offseason changes, their superstar pairings remain intact, with Los Angeles featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the best duo in hoops, while the Clippers counter with star wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Lakers enter Tuesday as 2.5-point favorites.
Clippers vs Lakers Odds
|Los Angeles Clippers||+2.5 (-110)||+120||N/A|
|Los Angeles Lakers||-2.5 (-110)||-142||N/A|
Odds from FanDuel taken December 20. Tip-off is Tuesday at 10:10pm
Are The Lakers Up To Speed?
After winning the franchise’s 17th title, COVID-19 ensured that it would be a short celebration. The stop-and-start to crown a 2020 champ ended the season in October, followed by a flurry of trades, the NBA Draft, free agency and training camp happening in succession before the Dec. 22 opening.
The good news is Los Angeles is loaded and is the overwhelming favorite to repeat in the NBA Championship odds. Rob Pelinka brought in young and hungry stars Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell, while upgrading Danny Green to Wes Matthews and bringing in wily vet Marc Gasol, upping the defensive IQ and team passing.
— OvOlakeshow (@VeryOwnLakeShow) December 15, 2020
While there may be questions of players fitting rosters, there should be no issue with the Lakers.
James and Anthony can adjust to the players around them better than any other stars in basketball. As long as they can play — and Harrell, winner of NBA Sixth Man of the Year and Schroder, the runner-up, substantially boost the overall talent level — LeBron can piece this together. This is a team that led the league in field goal shooting at better than 48%, though they’d like to up that 34.9% mark from deep.
They also return key title contributors Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, making this the deepest roster James has been a part of as he enters year 18.
LeBron should have more opportunities to attack closeouts this season with better floor spacing pic.twitter.com/uxy7L830RN
— Laker Film Room Horton-Tucker (@LakerFilmRoom) December 20, 2020
That should be a bonus, as head coach Frank Vogel probably wants to work his stars into heavier minutes as the season progresses, and let the supporting cast do much of the heavy lifting early on.
One thing to watch: when Davis and James did play in the preseason — Los Angeles’ last two against the Suns — the Lakers fell behind early in both, often looking rusty and out of sync. The Clippers and opening night should provide enough juice Tuesday, but this season could be an early grind.
Clippers With Something To Prove
The last we saw the Clips, they were blowing a 3-1 series lead in Round 2 to the Nuggets in the playoffs.
That forced the team to address issues of cohesion both on and off the court, and we’re going to see if they’re ready to contend right off the bat.
▪️ 4th NBA All-Star
▪️ All-NBA Second Team
▪️ All-Defensive Second Team
— NBA (@NBA) November 8, 2020
Gone is Doc Rivers at head coach, and in comes Tyronn Lue. An assistant on last year’s team, his task goes beyond the numbers, as the Clippers were plenty talented enough to compete last year. They were the only team to rank top-5 in offensive and defensive rating.
Lue has already making some interesting noise, suggesting the team will run triangle sets, with Leonard playing the Jordan-Kobe spot, in an effort to utilize more of his his lethal mid-range game.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 16, 2020
Perhaps that can get the Clippers out of their stagnant, iso-heavy sets. The team ranked 23rd in assists last year. Some easy buckets would be welcomed.
LA opted not to keep Harrell, who bolted down the hall, but the team is hopeful the addition of Serge Ibaka adds more bulk and shooting to space out the floor. Luke Kennard is a live body that can do a multitude of useful things, particularly with shooting and playmaking. We’ll see what Nic Batum has left after getting handsomely paid while disappearing off the basketball map in Charlotte the last few years.
What’s The Best Bet?
For the Clippers to contend, George needs to be the All-NBA version that finished third in MVP voting in 2018, and not the borderline all-star that shrunk in key moments. This is a good test for him.
The Clippers should be hungrier, but the Lakers carry championship swag into this matchup. Unsure of who they were when they lost the opener last year (they’ve also lost their last three openers as a favorite), the Purple and Gold know they are title caliber, and while they won’t be dominant night-in and night-out, they will show up for marquee moments.
The pick: Lakers -2.5 (-110)
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