What better way to start the 2020-21 NBA season than with the Battle of Los Angeles. The rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers has looked much better in recent years with the Clippers emerging from the bottom of the NBA and becoming one of its elite teams.
Last season, the Clippers were the preseason favorites to win the NBA title but their year ended with a second-round playoff exit where they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, the Lakers were the best team in the West during the regular season before they came together in the Orlando bubble and became the team to beat behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. This one’s considered a home game for the Lakers although it’s also the home court for the Clippers.
The LA Clippers saw their 2019-20 season end unexpectedly at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. The Clippers were up 3-1 but could close out the Nuggets who stormed back to take their second-round series 4-3. The Clippers replaced coach Doc Rivers with Tyron Lue during the offseason. They also lost Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers but added Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard to bolster their side. Paul George signed a contract extension and while Kawhi Leonard says he will opt out, he has declared that he is focused on the current season.
The Clippers will look to Leonard and George to lead them once again but the key to this team will be Lou Williams who is one of the best bench players in the league. If Williams can provide firepower with their stars on the bench, the Clippers should be able to keep up with the Lakers. Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson are solid veterans who can contribute. The Clippers hope Ivica Zubac will be a lot wiser this year.
I think more than anything else, it’s the confidence that will be the key to the Clippers in this game. Sure, they want to open the season by serving a notice to the entire league. But in the back of their minds is their playoff collapse which is hard to forget. There have been rumors about friction within the team during the offseason. They need to show that all is well under Ty Lue and that they are ready to play as the contenders that they are.
Odds from BetOnline as of 12/22/2020
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are coming off their 17th NBA championship and their first since the Kobe Bryant era. Los Angeles was one of the most consistent teams last season as they topped the Western Conference during the regular season before emerging as the team to beat in the playoffs. The Lakers lost several key players like Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Javale McGee, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley but they have added the likes of Denis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol. Most importantly, this team signed extension deals with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and those are the names that really matter.
Los Angeles’ success will depend on how consistent their superstars can perform every night. This year’s team has a much better bench with last year’s Sixth Man of the Year winner and runner-up joining the squad. The Lakers lost two quality big men in McGee and Howard. Marc Gasol was added but he offers a different skill set to the team. No question this team is loaded with scorers but it remains to be seen if they will be the same defensive force without McGee and Howard.
The Purple and Gold led the league in field goal percentage at 48% last season and Harrell looks to help them even improve on that number. They, however, shot 34.8% from behind the three-point arc and although Matthews is there to help, the Lakers hope KCP and Kuzma could shoot better to start the year.
The Clippers are 2-4 SU in their last six games played. L.A. is 2-5 SU in their last seven games played against rivals from the Pacific Division. The Lakers are 16-4 SU in their last 20 games played. Los Angeles is 7-1 SU in their last eight games played at home, and 8-1 SU in their last nine games against the Western Conference. Head to head, these teams have split their last 10 meetings but the Lakers have won the last two.
The Lakers arguably had the best offseason. They picked up quality players like Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol. These acquisitions should only solidify their status as the preseason favorites to repeat as champions. The Lakers will have their core of LBJ, AD, KCP, and Kyle Kuzma back. Their new supporting cast looks better than last year’s group.
The Clippers lost Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers but they added a more dynamic big man in Serge Ibaka. The Clippers also added sharpshooter Luke Kennard and with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George healthy to start the season, the Clippers should fare better this year. It’s tough to face the champions on opening night but remember this team was the previous year’s preseason favorites. The Clippers have the talent and depth to match up with the Lakers.
With a short offseason, I don’t expect the Lakers to go full steam ahead in this game. Sure this is an important rivalry game. But it’s a long season and Frank Vogel can’t risk any injuries with the other teams getting better over the offseason. The Clippers meanwhile are more well-rested and should have a new spunk with a new head coach who knows LBJ very well. The Clippers need this game more than the Lakers. Look for Leonard and George to open the season with big games. I’m tempted to pick the Lakers but I like the plus money on the Clippers.
Prediction: LA Clippers
Other Bets To Make
L.A. is 1-5 ATS in their last six games played. The Clippers are 14-6 ATS in their last 20 December games. Los Angeles is 1-4 ATS in their last five games played. The Lakers are 2-6 ATS in their last eight December games. Head to head, the Clippers are 10-5 ATS in their last 15 games played against the Lakers. The LA Clippers are also 7-0 ATS in their last seven road games against the Lakers.
Odds from BetOnline as of 12/22/2020
The Lakers were never good at the spread last season despite finishing as NBA champions. With this team, it has always been about picking up wins. Three out of the last five head-to-head meetings between these two teams were decided by five or fewer points so this should be a close one. The Lakers have failed to cover four out of their last five as betting favorites and four out of their last five Tuesday games. The Lakers were one of the last two teams to play last season while the Clippers have had more than enough rest. Kawhi and PG have more to prove to start the season.
Prediction: Clippers +3
The total has gone under in seven out of the last eight games played by the Clippers. The under is 4-1 in their last five games played away from home. The Clippers have seen the total go under in seven out of their last eight games against an opponent from the Western Conference. The total has gone under in four out of the Lakers’ last six games played. The under is 4-1 in their last five games against rivals from the Pacific division, and the under is also 4-1 in their last five Tuesday games. Head to head, the total has gone under in five out of the last six head-to-head meetings between these two teams.
Odds from BetOnline as of 12/22/2020
These teams have combined to score just an average of 212.0 points per game in their last three meetings. They have combined for 217 or fewer points in seven out of their last 10 meetings. Sure, there’s too much firepower on the floor for this game but anytime you have this rivalry at Staples Center, it’s always like a playoff atmosphere game. These teams rank in the Top 10 in scoring last season but they also in the upper half in scoring defense with the Lakers 4th in that department. Both teams are offensively gifted but it’s defense that wins this game.
Prediction: Under 220.5