It’s been a long summer but the 2019-2020 NBA season is finally here. The NBA wasted no time in giving fans the marquee matchup that they have been clamoring for, pitting the Los Angeles Lakers against the Clippers on opening night.
For the Lakers, who have remade their roster after trading Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and draft picks for Anthony Davis this summer, opening night presents an opportunity to get the new season off to a positive start against a team that figures to be one of their biggest rivals in the Western Conference. After landing Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, the Clippers have their sights set on a championship as well, which could take the budding rivalry between the two teams to another level.
For the Lakers to defeat the Clippers and start the season out the right way, they will have to focus on three keys:
1. Defend the three-point line: The Clippers were the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the league last season, hitting nearly 39% from deep as a team. The Lakers had moments of success chasing the Warriors off of the three-point line during the preseason but were also lit up by the Brooklyn Nets. Avery Bradley, Danny Green, LeBron James, and the rest of the Lakers’ perimeter players are going to have to be diligent about closing out on shooters all game long. The Clippers will do everything they can to find open looks for Leonard, Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green, and Lou Williams, and if they are succesful it could turn the tide in the game.
2. Bully ball: while the Clippers may have an advantage on the perimeter, the Lakers are clearly the bigger, stronger team. It’s going to be critical that Davis, James, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard dominate in the paint on both ends of the floor. The Clippers were 28th in the league in offensive rebounds allowed last season which suggests that there will be opportunities for the Lakers bigs to get tip-ins off of missed shots.
That doesn’t mean that Ivica Zubac and Motrezl Harrell won’t put up a fight, but the Lakers will need to handily win the battle on the inside.
3. Be a star in your role: James and Davis are going to do what they do as stars and will lead the way, but the role players will need to be clicking if the team is going to be at their most dangerous. That means players like Green, Bradley, Quinn Cook, Howard, Jared Dudley, and the rest will need to play well within their role on the team, and if they do, a win may be on the way.