January 22, 2021

‘Clippers loss would be damaging for Lakers’

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A loss to city rivals the Clippers in their opening restart game would be damaging for the Los Angeles Lakers, says three-time NBA champion BJ Armstrong.

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The headliners of NBA’s second opening night of the season are the same as the first: the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers.

But Staples Center will not be venue for the fourth chapter in the Battle of LA. The latest clash between the two Western Conference heavyweights will play out inside the NBA’s bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in central Florida with no fans present.

On this week’s edition of Heatcheck, BJ Armstrong joined regulars Ovie Soko, Mo Mooncey and Jaydee Dyer to debate how the latest Clippers-Lakers tussle will play out.

Armstrong, who won three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan as a member of the Chicago Bulls, believes the Lakers cannot afford to lose to a depleted Clippers team who will be without star reserves Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers plays defense against Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers 3:40
Re-live the drama of round three in the battle of LA as the Lakers took on the Clippers in March

“I don’t think the LA Clippers are not going to show their hand. They have the perfect excuse not to because they don’t have their full roster available. The one thing I know about Doc Rivers, he won’t want to give the Lakers any confidence,” he said.

“The Clippers feel in their heart of hearts they can beat the Lakers at full strength. They are not worried about what the Lakers are doing because they feel they are better than the Lakers. The Clippers are going to say, ‘we are not at full strength, it’s just another game’. But make no mistake, when they meet down the line when the playoffs begin, that is when they will really turn it up.

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“The big thing Rivers wants is to not give the Lakers any confidence. Mentally, this is a gamesmanship [edge] he is looking to get. If the Lakers lose to the Clippers, I think that could be very damaging to the Lakers right now and Rivers understands that.”

While the game marks the first step on what is likely to be an long run that extends to the latter stages of the playoffs for both teams, Soko and Mooncey agreed neither squad will be lacking intensity in the showpiece opener.

LeBron James NBA 0:43
LeBron James says the LA Lakers will miss the support of their home fans at the Staples Center

“No doubt, both teams are going to be going out there to win,” said Soko. “However, we are not going to see guys playing their full normal minutes they will be playing down the stretch in the playoffs. Both teams know they are going to be in the playoffs and there is a high likelihood they are going to meet up again down the line [in the postseason].

“I think it is going to start off with some sparring. If it gets close late, you are going to see the key guys come in and try to win the game. It’s going to be competitive and really fun for the fans.”

Said Mooncey: “When LeBron James steps on the court and sees Kawhi Leonard, it isn’t going to be about sparring. These guys are going to be swinging heavyweight blows. We are going to see both of these teams trying to win it because you want to get this restart off on the winning foot. No one wants to start taking the ‘L’.

“We are going to see these two teams battling it out. These guys are not going to be holding anything back. They’ll both be out there looking for the ‘W’. The players will play hard and everyone is going to get a run out there.”

JR Smith fires from three-point land against the Washington Wizards 1:26
JR Smith drained six three-pointers to lead the Lakers to a scrimmage win against the Wizards

While the Clippers are missing key players, the Lakers are in the process of embedding a pair of new recruits into their ranks. With Avery Bradley opting out of participating in the restart and Rajon Rondo out for 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb, the Lakers signed veterans JR Smith and Dion Waiters to bolster their backcourt.

“This game is important for the Lakers because they have brought in two new players who are going to part of their rotation,” said Armstrong. “The Lakers have to play well and, most importantly, they have to win to try and get the momentum and confidence they are going to need as they head towards the playoffs.”

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