Coach's Corner: Don Casey on Lakers vs. Clippers
By Don Casey (As told to Andrew Pearson)

The Lakers "visit" the Clippers Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The Battle for Staples Center resumes again on Friday night as the Lakers “visit” the Clippers, with the Lakers and Clippers having split the season series so far. The Clippers have come out of the All-Star break having lost their first two games against Dallas and Houston, and five straight overall, dropping them six games behind Phoenix. The Clippers will have to be at their best because the Lakers are on a mission. They’ve been a little bit possessed after the All-Star break, looking to make a second half run to the playoffs with Kobe Bryant leading the way.

The Clippers and Lakers have split this season, but the Lakers are right behind the Clippers.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Right now the Clippers are in a vulnerable position. They’re not playing sharply, though they’ve been in games. According to Coach Mike Dunleavy, for the Clippers to win, they have to get the ball to Chris Kaman more on the inside.

In Dallas on Tuesday night, Kaman made six of his seven shots in the first half, but then took only two more shots the remainder of the game. Against Kwame Brown and the Lakers, he has to be more of a threat in both halves. It will benefit the Clippers to put the pressure on Brown in the post, causing the defense to drop down so that they can go outside more effectively. Sometimes with shooting guards like Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley, they might involve themselves to try and get in the rhythm of the game from a scoring perspective. In turn, they forget about the post guys on the inside, evidenced by the game versus the Mavericks and then against Houston when Yao Ming had a field day inside.

If you look in the box scores, teams now winning are coming up with three scorers. Look at New Jersey with Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd. The first part of the season, you didn’t see that. You saw Iverson and Webber. Now the third scorer is emerging. The Clippers have three scorers. Three consistent scorers for the Lakers is not there. That is an issue.


Over the last five games, the Clippers have been outrebounded in four of them, surprising because they have been so good all year in that category. However, long shots are tough to rebound and if they’re jacking it up and not hitting, there’s nothing around for the big guys to get. The Clippers are going to live and die by the guards. Elton Brand gets his points by effort, by skill, and by hustle. Add Vladimir Radmanovic, recently acquired from Seattle, to the mix with Cassell and Mobley, and you have a plethora of peripheral shooters creating long rebounds.

In order for the Lakers to win, they have to continue the scoring menace with Kobe, Lamar Odom has to get himself more involved, and they have to get something out of Smush Parker. More out of the point guard position in terms of managing the offense, as well as scoring, is essential. I know Dunleavy and he’ll run traps at Kobe and double him just to get the ball out of his hands. Regardless, Kobe will still get his, evidenced by his 86 points in the two games played against each other. Regardless, others will have to pick up the slack and score.

Their Achilles' heal, though, is on the inside, both offensively and defensively. Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum just haven’t been getting it done, though Chris Mihm has had a nice year. Bynum is in a tough position, though, straight out of high school and now, having to try and be a dominant post presence and factor for the Lakers. On the defensive side of the ball he just is not getting it done. Brown can be factor on the defensive end, with excellent timing to block shots, but he hasn’t been a force offensively.


For the Clippers, the die has been cast. They’re in a little down cycle right now and the pressure is on for them to keep on winning. That is a whole new experience and it creates a whole new atmosphere. They’re going into games now expecting to win or knowing that they can win, rather than showing up and hoping they can win like last year. They should be fine the rest of the way.

With that said, this game at this time could be something special for the Lakers. If they get whacked, then the Lakers are in deep trouble. Even though there are all these home games remaining, they have a very tough schedule ahead. This is a very important game. The Lakers can win it through energy and defensive effort and pushing the ball. I am going with the Lakers.

-- Don Casey appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association.