The much anticipated Christmas Day matchup between the Lakers and the Clippers did not disappoint as the Clippers completed a comeback victory over the Lakers yesterday. Here are a few takeaways from this matchup.
1. Kawhi Leonard is legit
The Kawhi Leonard hype train had been growing since his Finals performance last year. However, going into this matchup, there have been questions as to how good Kawhi truly is as he has seemingly coasted during the regular season with subpar play on the court and missing time this season due to minor “load management” injuries. However, last night he showed that he is potentially the best player in the NBA. He was seemingly unstoppable on the offensive end, with a 35 point performance on 11/19 shooting from the field, and shut down Lebron on the defensive end.
2. The Lakers will need more pieces to compete with the Clippers in the playoffs
Despite admirable efforts from Kyle Kuzma and many other Laker role players last night, the Lakers still fell short. This is due to the fact that the Lakers lack an elite defensive wing player who can shut down Kawhi Leonard, the way Kawhi shut down Lebron. One player who could fill this role would be Andre Iguodala if he were to be eventually bought out by the Grizzlies. Additionally, the Lakers seemed to struggle to produce on offense when Lebron had an off night. Despite 25 points from Kyle Kuzma, who played an excellent third scorer role last night, the Lakers could not muster up enough offense to hang on to their lead and win the game. The Lakers will probably need a more reliable and better third option than Kuzma if they expect to put up enough points over a 7 game series against the Clippers.
3. The Lakers size advantage did not pay off
Even though the Lakers oftentimes played Anthony Davis along with either Dwight Howard or Javale McGee, the Lakers still were outrebounded by the Clippers. Although Javale McGee had a monster defensive night with 5 blocks, playing a center and Anthony Davis together creates problems on offense. Additionally, they were even outrebounded by 8 by the Clippers who only played one big man at a time, either Montrezl Harrell or Ivica Zubac. For the Lakers to win a 7 game series, they will need to outrebound the Clippers with their significant size advantage.