Once a team sees a long winning streak ended, it often goes into a mini-funk – it’s simply hard to keep up the intensity night after night in the NBA (or NHL or MLB for that matter). And such appears to have happened to the Los Angeles Clippers, who have a killer schedule this week.
They had their franchise-record 17-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night in Denver. No shame there as the Mile High City is one of the toughest places to play, both because the Nuggets are excellent at home and due to the altitude. Then L.A. had to fly to the Bay Area and face a surprisingly good Golden State team on Wednesday night. The Clips were clearly flat in the second of the back-to-back, getting thumped 115-94 for their worst defeat of the season.
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Los Angeles fell behind 26-8, was outrebounded by 15 and shot 36.3 percent from the field against the Warriors after shooting then-season-low 38.5 percent in Denver. It’s L.A.’s first time shooting under 39 percent in back-to-back games since last March. Strangely, the Clippers have to face the Warriors in the second of a back-to-back again Saturday, but at least it’s in L.A.
The Lakers will be well-rested, having been off since losing 103-99 at home to the 76ers to drop L.A. back under .500. Kobe Bryant had 36 points and Steve Nash 12 points and 10 assists, but no other Laker did much – Dwight Howard was 1-for-7 from the field for seven points, and Pau Gasol was 2-for-12 for 11 points. Bryant has been playing small forward instead of shooting guard recently as Mike D’Antoni changed his rotation. Darius Morris has moved into the starting lineup and Metta World Peace comes off the bench.
Lakers at Clippers Betting Story Lines
After that 76ers loss, Bryant ripped into his team, saying it was “old as shit” in not showing enough energy in games. Kobe isn’t showing signs of age, leading the NBA in scoring at 30.3 per game and averaging 34.2 in the past five after moving to small forward. But playing slower seems to favor the Lakers perhaps because of their age. They are 5-11 this season when they have 96 or more possessions in a game and 10-5 when having 95 or fewer possessions. Under D'Antoni, they are 2-9 with at least 96 possessions and 8-2 with 95 or fewer. Bryant is definitely playing too many minutes, averaging 41.7 in the past five games. L.A. enters this game outside of the Top 8 in the West and nine games behind the Clippers in the Pacific. The Lakers are still just +185 to win the division on BetOnline. The Clips are -300 favorites and lead the second-place Warriors by 2.5 games.
One problem for the Clippers’ struggles of late has been Blake Griffin, who has hit a wall. December’s Western Conference Player of the Month has just 29 combined points on 9-for-27 shooting in the past three games. He took a hard fall against the Warriors when he was the victim of a flagrant foul but continued to play. The team played against the Warriors without small forward Caron Butler due to personal reasons, but he is expected back Friday. Matt Barnes started Wednesday and had 19 points and seven rebounds. He and Jamal Crawford are the main reasons why the Clippers are second in the NBA in bench scoring at 41.7 points per game. Over the last 15 games, Barnes has averaged 13.7 points on 55.2 percent shooting and 42.4 percent from long range.
This is the second of four meetings. Back on Nov. 2 “at” the Lakers, the Clippers won 105-95. The Clips opened a 16-point lead and never trailed after the first quarter. Chris Paul had 18 points and 15 assists, and Crawford scored 21. Kobe had 40, but Howard had just 13 and eight rebounds as he was in foul trouble. Nash missed the game. It snapped the Clippers’ nine-game “road” losing streak in the series.
Lakers at Clippers Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, the Clippers are 4.5-point favorites with the total at 206.5. The Lakers are 13-17-1 ATS (5-8-1 on road) and 16-14-1 “over/under”. The Clippers are 20-13 ATS (13-5 at home, which is best mark in NBA) and 18-15 O/U.
The Lakers are 3-0-1 ATS in their past four Friday games. They are 7-3 in their past 10 playing on two days of rest. The Clippers are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 home games and in their last 10 overall against teams with a losing record. The Clips are 0-5 ATS in their past five following a loss. The over is 5-0 in the Lakers’ past five road games vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in the Clips’ past four after a loss. The over is 6-0 in the past six meetings. The home team has covered eight of the past 11 meetings.
Lakers at Clippers Picks and Betting Predictions
The Lakers were supposed to be whole when Nash returned but are just 3-4 since he came back. The team’s offensive efficiency is up three points with Nash on the floor, but the defensive efficiency rating has dropped 3.1 points.
If you are Clippers backer, it should concern you a bit that L.A. didn’t beat a truly good team in that 17-game run. In fact, there wasn’t a title contender in the group unless you still believe the under-.500 Celtics are one. But if it’s close Friday, expect a Clipper win. They are 5-1 in games decided by five points or less.
For once, I believe a game between these two means actually much more to the Lakers. Whenever Kobe goes off on his team, the players usually respond in the next game. So take the Lakers and the over.
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