The two NBA teams that play at Staples Center will square off on opening night of the 2013-2014 NBA regular season. The league has released the complete schedule for the upcoming year, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are set to play each other on Tuesday, Oct.29. The Lakers will technically be the home team in game No.1.
After the opener, the two teams won’t face each other again until 2014. They will go head-to-head four times during the season and fight for first place in the Pacific Division. At the end of the year, which team will prove to be the best in Los Angeles?
In 2012-2013, the Clippers finally made the leap passed their rivals. They won the division handily at 56-26, finishing nine games ahead of the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers had their worst season in almost a decade, finishing in third place with 45 wins and needing a victory on the last day of the year to secure a playoff berth. The Clippers won all four games against the Lakers last season, defeating them by double-digits on all but one occasion.
It might be difficult to pick the Lakers to finish ahead of the Clippers in 2014. The Lakers had a much less successful 2013 campaign and lost several key players to free agency. Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets and Metta World Peace went to the New York Knicks after he was amnestied. Kobe Bryant still has one year left on his contract, but he could miss a significant amount of time with his Achilles injury.
The Clippers made a few changes this offseason that could help them have an even better year. They lost backup point guard Eric Bledsoe, but replaced him with Darren Collison. The club also added a much needed shooter in J.J. Redick.
After adding Doc Rivers this summer, the defending division champs finally have the edge at head coach. Vinny Del Negro had trouble making adjustments in games, and Rivers is widely regarded as a top coach in the NBA. D’Antoni has struggled mightily since leaving the Phoenix Suns in 2008 and couldn’t get the Lakers stars to play well together in his first year with the club.
The Lakers fate in 2014 may rest on the shoulders of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Both were major disappointments this past season, with Gasol having the worst season of his career and Nash averaging his lowest point and assist totals in over a decade. The two missed 65 combined games and could have much more of an impact if they can stay healthy. Gasol struggled to play alongside Howard, and is expected to have a much more prominent role as the No.1 center.
After a quiet offseason, many are predicting the Lakers to miss the playoffs. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are expected to lead the Clippers to a top seed in the Western Conference. The online betting Web site Bovada has put the Clippers odds of winning the NBA Finals at 12/1. The Lakers come in at 33/1.