The 2020-21 NBA regular season is over, and it’s finally time for the most exciting time of the year for basketball fans: The Playoffs! After one of the most grueling seasons ever, with many stars missing several games due to injury issues and health and safety protocols, the title run has begun, and we have some great matchups right in the first round.
Both teams from Los Angeles have reached the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers finished fourth in the Western Conference, with a 47-25 record, and now face fifth seed Dallas Mavericks, with the home court advantage. The reigning NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers struggled with several injuries throughout the season, and finished seventh with a 42-30 record. The team had to battle through the play-in tournament, to reach the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
As we enter the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets are the overwhelming favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season, with +210 odds to win the championship, according to analysts and California sportsbooks listed on USGamblingSites.com/california/. But the Lakers are ranked second, with +500 odds to win the NBA title, and the Clippers at +750.
Los Angeles Clippers
Following a frustrated run in last season’s playoffs, when the team was sent home by Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, the Los Angeles Clippers parted ways with Doc Rivers, who had been the franchise’s head coach for seven years and led them to six postseason appearances. On October 20, the Clippers promoted Tyronn Lue, who had joined the team in 2019 as an assistant to Rivers, as their new head coach.
Apart from a change of direction in the head coach position, the Los Angeles Clippers also added some players to the roster. In the offseason, they traded in Luke Kennard and Justin Pattton, from the Detroit Pistons, signed center Serge Ibaka and forward Nicolas Batum, both off free agency, and re-signed forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson, and point guard Reggie Jackson. They also signed a four-year contract extension with All-Star guard Paul George.
The Clippers started the season with four wins in five games in December, and by the end of January, the team was battling for the top of the standings in the Western Conference, with great performances by George and Kawhi Leonard, and Serge Ibaka proving to be a great addition to the Clippers rotation. However, in February, they struggled to keep the consistency, losing four of eight home games, and finished the month with an 8-7 record.
In March, the Clippers traded shooting guard Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks, for veteran point guard and two-time NBA champion Rajon Rondo. He instantly made a great impact in the team’s rotation, and the team went on to win 19 games between March and April, with only two losses in the Staples Center.
The Los Angeles Clippers qualified to the NBA Playoffs as the fourth seed in the Western Conference. They now face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, in the first round of the postseason. In the first game of the series, at the Staples Center, they lost 103-113, in an exciting battle that featured a heated matchup between Patrick Beverley and Doncic.
Los Angeles Lakers
Following their victory in the 2020 NBA Finals, when they claimed their first title since the Kobe Bryant-era, the Los Angeles Lakers made a lot of great moves in the offseason, and were able to improve an already star-studded roster.
In November, they traded Danny Green to the Thunder, for German point guard Dennis Schroder. They also traded in Alfonzo McKinnie, sending JaVale McGee to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the free agency, The Lakers signed forward Montrezl Harrell, shooting guard Wesley Matthews, and All-Star center and former NBA champion Marc Gasol. They signed Anthony Davis on a five-year contract extension, and LeBron James on a two-year extension, and also re-signed Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris.
Even though they lost Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard, the team seemed to be even stronger than last year, and ahead of the season tip-off, they were the favorites to win the championship. The team had a good start to the season, and by mid-February, the Lakers were battling for first place in the Western Conference with the Utah Jazz, with a 21-7 record and two games behind the Jazz.
But on February 15, Anthony Davis suffered a calf injury and had to be sidelined. And on March 20, LeBron James suffered a severe high ankle sprain which forced him out of action as well. Davis missed the following 30 games, the most in his career, and James missed 26 of the last 30 games of the regular season. The Lakers went 14-16 without Davis, and 6-10 without LeBron James, and the team fell to seventh place in the Western Conference.
With a 42-30 record, the same as the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers finished seventh due to tiebreakers, and had to face the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament, to reach the postseason. In another chapter of the Curry-James rivalry, the Lakers beat the Warriors in a thrilling match that was decided by a desperate contested three-pointer by James in the final 15 seconds of the game.
The Los Angeles Lakers now face the Phoenix Suns, who, led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, had the second best overall record in the league, and finished second in the Western Conference. In the first game of the series, the Lakers lost 99-90, in an uninspired night by Anthony Davis. However, Paul left the game with a shoulder injury, which could give a little hope to the purple and gold.