Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 6:00 PM
The dramatic improvement of the LA Clippers from annual doormat into serious contender has turned every Clippers/Lakers game into something special. Both teams share a home arena. Both teams are battling for the hearts and minds of pro hoop fans in the City of Angels. But, Sunday afternoon’s meeting that will be televised nationally by ABC is HUGE because so much is at stake in the playoff picture in these final days of the 2013 campaign.
*The Lakers currently hold the #8 spot in the West by a whisker. That would barely qualify them for the postseason. But, a loss to the Clippers Sunday and that whisker gets shaved!
*The Clippers are safely in the playoffs, but find themselves in a fight for the 3-4-5 positions with Denver and Memphis. Because of a fade over the past few weeks, the Clippers are on the wrong end of that sequence. If the playoffs started today, the Clippers wouldn’t have one of the best four records in the league, and would be stuck playing red hot Memphis without home court advantage.
Both teams BADLY need this victory. Let’s take a look at some key indicator categories to try and get a read on how things will play out at Staples Center…
Lakers: 40-36 (#8 in the West)
Clippers: 50-26 (#5 record in the West)
The Clippers are guaranteed of what is technically called a #4 seed in the West by winning the Pacific Division. But they currently have the #5 record in the West…which means they wouldn’t enjoy home court advantage in the first round. Hopefully the NBA will eventually fix this nonsense and just say that winning your division guarantees you of at least a #5 seed…instead of saying you can be a #4 seed lacking home court advantage!
The Lakers have a half game lead over Utah, and a three-game advantage of Dallas…who stayed alive earlier this week with a road win at Denver in what had been the toughest game remaining on their schedule. There’s just no margin for error for Kobe and Company given the number of tough opponents that remain on the schedule.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
The Lakers struggled badly most of the season vs. good teams, but have been getting results lately vs. quality. They did beat Memphis Friday Night by a bucket. The Clippers peaked earlier this season, and have been drifting back to the Lakers in most categories the past few weeks. The Clippers probably still have an edge here, but it’s not as big as those records would suggest.
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
If you’re new to basketball analytics, “efficiency” is scoring divided by the number of possessions you have. Both of these teams grade out very well on offense. Critics have been complaining about the lack of chemistry on the Lakers this season. They still get along well enough to score! And, Kobe Bryant is having one of his most efficient seasons in ages.
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
The Lakers problems have been on defense, though they’ve picked up the pace there since Dwight Howard re-committed himself to winning. The return of Pau Gasol didn’t hurt, because he provides length near the basket. The Clippers have been a top 10 defense most of the season…but they’ve lost some intensity in big games lately. You can’t take the Clippers seriously as a championship threat in the West unless they’re providing top 10 effort every night.
REBOUND RATE RANKINGS
You can’t ever forget about rebounding in basketball, whether you’re talking college or pro. Both teams grade out very well in this category thanks to talented bigs.
It’s funny that many believe the Lakers have slowed way down this year because of injuries and age. Maybe they’re playing slower than run-and-gun head coach Mike D’Antoni wants. But, they’re still one of the five fastest teams in the league! The Clippers are around league average. The Clippers love alley-oop dunks…but they’re still the more comfortable of the two in a halfcourt game because of the way Chris Paul gets his teammates good shots.
If you’re looking at the full season numbers…then the Clippers are clearly the superior side. If you’re only looking at post-All-Star Break numbers…then things are much more even. JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his West Coast sources to make sure his clients get the right side. You can see if Lakers/Clippers made the final cut by signing up for today’s BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to take care of business early because there is some day basketball and A LOT of day baseball!
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Back with you tomorrow to run the numbers in that NCAA title tilt. College hoops is about to officially hand things off to the NBA as one championship leads to another. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!