How Lakers Win the Battle For LA!
The key to winning the battle of LA is LeBron James and Anthony Davis winning their superstar matchup with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
The enduring image from the Los Angeles Lakers’ disappointing opening day defeat by the Los Angeles Clippers was Kawhi Leonard relentlessly bullying and easily scoring over the smaller Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Preventing that from happening again has to be Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel’s number one priority, which means the player who has to be the team’s primary defender on Kawhi Leonard must be LeBron James.
Simply stated, LeBron James is the only player on the Lakers with the physical strength and mental toughness to defend Kawhi Leonard. To win the battle of LA, the Lakers must win the battle of the alpha superstars.
That means Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel must match Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers and mirror the time James spends on the court with that of Leonard. When Kawhi rests, LeBron rests and when Kawhi plays, LeBron plays.
The risk, of course, is LeBron getting into foul trouble and the Clippers having someone other than Kawhi defending him. Defensively, LeBron will have to be careful and play smart position defense and avoid silly fouls.
The Lakers’ defensive game plan should be LeBron James and Danny Green sticking close to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard having their backs protecting the rim.
Vogel needs Green to shadow George just as James shadows Leonard. AD and whichever Lakers’ center who’s in the game also need to protect the rim, control the defensive boards, and neutralize the Clippers bigs.
LeBron needs to fight through screens and the Lakers need to trap or ice Kawhi when he tries to force a switch when guarded by LeBron. The key is trusting your rim protection and not allowing Kawhi Leonard to beat you. Kawhi’s one of the few players who can hit enough midrange jumpers to defeat defenses and win games. The Lakers need to play him tough without reaching and fouling and making him pass the ball or take a tough shot.
The Lakers are in the midst of a three game losing streak, partly because they were without one of their two superstars in two of the three losses and partly because they lost the defensive mojo that was their early trademark. The Lakers need to go into this game with a focus to shutting down Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. To do that, they will need great defensive efforts from LeBron James, Danny Green, Anthony Davis and their entire team.
Offensively, LeBron James must dominate whomever guards him and force the Clippers’ Doc Rivers to have Kawhi Leonard or Paul George defend him. LeBron cannot allow Patrick Beverly to be the Clipper who defends him.
The same is true of Anthony Davis. He cannot allow the Clippers to get by with Ivica Zubac, Mo Harkless, or Montrezl Harrell guarding him. He needs to dominate them and force Doc Rivers to have Kawhi defend him.
The Lakers’ goal offensively should be to force the Clippers to have to use their best two defenders, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, to guard the Lakers’ best two offensive players, Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
That superstar matchup heavily favors the Lakers as it would result in shooting guard George defending a bigger small forward in James and small forward Kawhi defending a bigger power forward in Davis.
When the Clippers beat the Lakers on opening day, they used point guard Patrick Beverley to hound LeBron full court, which led to the NBA media to declare the LeBron James at point guard experiment was a total failure.
Since then, LeBron James has proven beyond a doubt he’s actually the best point guard in the entire NBA, averaging 25.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, and dishing out a league leading 10.6 assists in 34.8 minutes per game.
I look for LeBron James and Anthony Davis to aggressively attack the Clippers’ defense to force Doc Rivers to adjust defensively. We may even see AD play the five for long stretches to get more shooters to create space.
The Lakers will be looking for their superstars to dominate on offense to force Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to play both ends of the court and ultimately have no option but to defend Anthony Davis and LeBron James
This battle of Los Angeles will be won by the team that controls and wins the superstar matchups. The Lakers will have an advantage if they force the Clippers to use their two superstars to defend the Lakers’ two superstars.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis need to exert their will and dominate any defenders Doc Rivers tries to use to guard them. Turning the battle of LA into the a battle of superstars is the key to the Lakers winning the game.
The NBA is a matchup based, superstar driven league. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are a better superstar duo than Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They need to prove that on Christmas day to beat the Clippers.
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