Preview: Lakers vs. Clippers
The Lakers host the neighboring Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center, but will point guard Steve Nash play?
As of Thursday, Nash was listed as doubtful after a lower-leg contusion knocked him out of the team’s loss in Portland on Wednesday night.
Naturally the Lakers have a different look if they’re starting Steve Blake in his place. Nash said he was more optimistic than “doubtful” but admitted it was “touch-and-go.”
The Clippers are one of the deepest teams in the league this season. They visit the Lakers with a perfect 1-0 record after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
If Nash sits out, the Lakers are going to need a big offensive night from Kobe Bryant, but that doesn’t mean Bryant needs to score 30-40 points.
The Lakers have a powerful duo inside with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Bryant will have to play the game with balance to make sure the Lakers bring a well-rounded attack.
The Clippers eventually expect to start Chauncey Billups at shooting guard, once he fully recovers from last year’s torn Achilles’. In the meantime, Coach Vinny Del Negro has gone with newcomer Willie Green.
Where the fireworks will happen Friday is when reserve guard Jamal Crawford checks in. Crawford has very quickly become a key offensive option for the team.
Bryant and Crawford could turn the game into a back-and-forth, quick-triggered track meet. Bryant needs to either score at an efficient clip or resist the urge to go at Crawford and get the ball to his bigs.
If Nash does play, perhaps other matchups stand out like Chris Paul against Nash, Blake Griffin and Gasol, or centers DeAndre Jordan and Howard battling in the post. Even then, keep an eye on Bryant/Crawford.
Eric Bledsoe may be the best backup point guard in the league. He could be starting on a number of teams but the athletic Clipper is primed to have a breakout season even as a reserve.
The Clippers have depth at every position but Bledsoe stands out as a major force.
Blake, if starting, is going to need to play a steady game for the Lakers. If he can hit open looks, the Lakers may be able to survive without Nash.
The Lakers are still trying to figure out their offense but really the issue over two games has been defense.
The Clippers are hard to stop and if the Lakers are without Nash, the drop-off in talent is pretty severe.
Prognosis? Lakers start the season 0-3.
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