Just one night after the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the New York Knicks 114-105 at home, they hit the road for a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers for their third matchup of the season. The season series is currently tied at 1-1, with the Clippers entering Tuesday’s matchup with a regular season record of 42-29, and Lakers at 20-50.
After some recent hiccups on the road, the Clippers got back on track in the last two games with wins over New York and Cleveland. The Lakers, on the other hand, have lost five in a row and 13-of-14.
Here are three things to watch for in Tuesday night’s matchup:
D-Lo the 2 Guard
Lakers’ guard D’Angelo Russell enters Tuesday’s matchup following a career-high 40 points against the Cavaliers. The Lakers just announced they’ll be moving Russell to the shooting guard slot, a move some are considering to be a positive one given Russell’s ability to shoot the ball.
“We’re still trying to evaluate and see some things,” head coach Luke Walton said. “With the starting group, I’d prefer to watch Jordan run the traditional point spot and D’Angelo to get out on the wing. … The perfect world is them being interchangeable. For now I want to see what D’Angelo does as an off-guard, I want to see what Jordan does as a point guard.”
In terms of Tuesday’s matchup, the change in position doesn’t really affect his role, or the Clippers’ strategy at containing one of the Lakers’ better talents. Clippers will have Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers all matched up with him at one point or another.
What will be an adjustment, though, is Russell’s ability to keep up with shooting guards, especially those playing more off ball and using movement and screens to get open.
Rest vs No Rest
While the Clippers clearly have the better roster, they do have to play this game on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers, on the other hand, haven’t played since Sunday, haven’t travelled since last week and take slightly fresher legs into Tuesday’s matchup.
The Clippers did get to rest all five starters thanks to a strong opening half and third quarter against the Knicks. A 25-point lead in the third quarter allowed for all starters to play zero minutes in the fourth.
“It’s really important,” Doc Rivers said after the win over New York. “It’s also nice that we don’t have to travel. When you have a back-to-back and the second game is a road game and you wake up at home, that’s not all bad.”
How successful the Clippers are in the postseason depends greatly on Griffin’s production. Specifically his efficiency.
Over the last two games, though, he’s had an extra pep in his step. He finished Saturday’s matchup against Cleveland with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists; he dominated New York Monday night with 30 points in just three quarters of play.
Griffin sat out the game vs Denver last week and the rest has clearly paid off. He’s attacking the basket more consistently, trusting his legs rather than settling for jumpers.
According to NumberFire’s nERD ranking — a measure of the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency — Griffin is at No. 30 in the league, and No. 3 on his team with an nERD of 5.4.
“It’s definitely important, even if it’s just one round,” Griffin said this week about home court advantage in the postseason. “We always think back to the Spurs series a few years ago. When it came down to the end of the regular season, the two through six seeds were all up in the air, and it came down to the last game.”