The Clippers have their first back to back of the year against the Lakers in a possible playoff preview, but the first appearance of James Harden (and PJ Tucker) in a Clippers jersey will probably have to wait.
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:00 PM ET
How to Watch: ESPN, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Bones Hyland – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Ivica Zubac
Lakers: D’Angelo Russell – Austin Reaves – Taurean Prince – LeBron James – Anthony Davis
Clippers: James Harden doubtful (trade), PJ Tucker doubtful (trade), Filip Petrusev doubtful (trade), Brandon Boston Jr. out (quad)
Lakers: Rui Hachimura doubtful (eye), Gabe Vincent doubtful (knee), Cam Reddish probable (foot), Jarred Vanderbilt out (foot),
The Big Picture
The Clippers are 3-1, and all three of their wins have been blowouts. Paul George looks great, Russell Westbrook has mostly played well, and Bones Hyland is in the early stages of a season-three breakout campaign. However, the Clippers’ roster just suffered a seismic shift with the trade for James Harden, PJ Tucker, and Filip Petrusev, and the sending out of almost the entirety of their forward depth. Harden will slot in as a starting guard, Tucker will presumably take Nic Batum’s role as the backup power forward, and Petrusev will probably be the third-string big man. It will be a major adjustment for everyone on the roster to add a piece of Harden’s magnitude, but one that should be worked out in the coming days, as the Clippers don’t play again until Monday in New York.
The Lakers are 2-2 to start the year but have probably played worse than their record. Their halfcourt offense has continued to struggle, as it has for most of the past few years. However, Anthony Davis has mostly looked dominant outside of the second half in their opener against the Suns and LeBron James continues to play at a high level considering his age. As long as those two guys are healthy and giving the Lakers close to what they are now, the Lakeshow should be pretty good, even with Austin Reaves and Gabe Vincent off to slow starts. Watch for lineups with James, Davis, and Christian Wood out there – a massive unit to deal with on both ends of the court.
First Load Management Test: The Clippers are playing their first back-to-back of the season, which also means it’s the first opportunity for the Clippers to rest their stars. Ty Lue has hedged when asked if Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will play, saying they’ll wait to see how they feel after the game against the Magic. Because of how short-handed the Clippers are, my guess would be that George at least suits up. Kawhi is the bigger mystery, but maybe he plays this one as well (it’s also a national TV game) even if he sits out other back to backs going forward.
Harden and Tucker Debut Delayed: The likelihood of James Harden, PJ Tucker, or Filip Petrusev (the forgotten man in all this) making their Clippers’ debuts tonight is very, very low. The trade did not become official until around 8 AM PT today, and the new players have had no time to practice or get any reps in with their new teammates. It’s theoretically possible they could play, as both Harden and Tucker do have experience alongside Russell Westbrook at least, but I think Monday against the Knicks in New York is the more likely debut date. Tucker has also played this season while Harden hasn’t, so if anyone was to play tonight it would probably be PJ.