On Thursday night, the two LA rivals will again meet on another opening night, albeit one with a distinctly different flavor, as the NBA season resumes after a hiatus of over four months enforced by the novel coronavirus pandemic .
Two of the bookmakers’ favorites for the NBA title when the season began in October, the Lakers and the Clippers had both lived up to expectations by the time the NBA season was halted on March 11 when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19 .
As the season ground to a halt, the Lakers were the only Western Conference team to have already secured a playoff spot.
Their 49-14 is the league’s second best behind only the Milwaukee Bucks , who were one of three Eastern Conference teams to have clinched a postseason berth before the season was halted in March.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are second in the Western Conference five games behind the Lakers. It wouldn’t be a major surprise to see the two franchises meet in the Conference Finals.
The case for both teams has grown stronger since the NBA last month unveiled plans to resume the campaign behind closed doors in Orlando . Joint favorites alongside the Bucks at 3/1 before the NBA suspension in March, odds on the Lakers have shortened to 12/5.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have gone from 7/2 to 3/1, even though they are yet to mathematically secure a postseason berth.
Doc Rivers’ team, however, will not be at full strength against the Lakers on Thursday. The Clippers will be without Lou Williams, who is in quarantine after leaving the Orlando bubble, and Montrezl Harrell who, like Williams, has left the bubble and is yet to return. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley is listed as questionable.
Despite the absences, Rivers remains optimistic.
“When you have five and six guys out at one time, that’s asking too much on any roster,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN on Wednesday.
“By the time the [seeding] games start, we won’t have that many out, but we’ll have maybe two to three key guys out, and that’s asking a lot.
“Having said that, that doesn’t stop us from believing we’re going to win every game. We have great confidence.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, lost key backup guard Rajon Rondo for up to eight weeks after the veteran underwent surgery on his fractured right thumb earlier this month. Rondo will be joined on the sidelines by guard Avery Bradley, who opted out of the season restart due to personal reasons.
If the four-month hiatus has deprived the Lakers of two important players, it has also given LeBron James a much-needed break, which could prove invaluable for a 35-year-old in his 17th season.
James is looking to bring the NBA title back to L.A. for the first time in a decade and admitted it will take some time to adjust to the unusual surrounding of the bubble, with games set to be played behind closed doors.
“Will it feel like a home game at Staples Center? It won’t have that feeling because our fans give us so much energy and so much support and we want to give that back to them on the floor,” he said.
“At the same time, we know our fans back in LA, all over California and all over the world are looking forward to seeing us go out and play again.”
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Thursday night.
When is Clippers vs. Lakers?
The two Los Angeles rivals take each other on in the second game in the NBA bubble in Orlando on Thursday, July 30.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
Which TV channel is Clippers vs. Lakers on?
The Lakers’ first game since the restart will be broadcast live on TNT at 9 p.m. ET.
Clippers vs. Lakers live stream
At the moment, fuboTV, Hulu and YouTubeTV offer free trial options. All the seeding games are also available to stream via NBA League Pass , subject to local market restrictions.
Clippers vs. Lakers odds
The Lakers are 3.5-point favorite and are 9/10 and 23/25 to cover the spread with FanDuel and DraftKings respectively, while the Clippers are 17/10 underdogs with DraftKings and 37/25 with FanDuel.
The over/under bar for total points scored is set at 204.5.
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