After their win over the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30 it seemed the Los Angeles Lakers were on top of the world. They needed just one win in Orlando to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference, and they had knotted up a series in which they had lost the first two games.
However, there was something about the win on the NBA bubble’s inaugural night that felt hollow. Anthony Davis had scored 34 points, LeBron James had put forth a defensive effort that was reminiscent of his mastery of Derrick Rose in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, but it took a putback by James with 12.8 seconds left to beat a short-handed Clippers team.
Fast forward to today, and that hollow feeling has a tangible reason behind it: The Lakers offense is struggling. In five seeding games, the Lakers are 2-3 SU / 1-4 ATS with a 95.7 offensive rating, the worst in the Orlando bubble. The team is shooting 40.8 percent from the floor, and 23.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite the struggles in Orlando, the Lakers remain the +250 (5/2) favorite at William Hill and DraftKings to win the NBA title. Meanwhile, their intercity-rival Clippers continue their steady, quiet gait through the NBA regular season.
The Clippers have found some success in Orlando even though a fully available roster continues to elude them. Even so, they are 2-2 SU / 3-1 ATS with +7.9 net rating in four seeding games. Unlike their rival, the Clippers offense is humming along averaging 117 points per game, and the team is one of the best in the bubble shooting 44.1 percent from deep.
Is it time to start believing, and more importantly, investing in these Clippers?
At almost every turn they have been shown to have the upper hand over the Western Conference favorites that reside in the same city. The two teams have played four times, the Clippers having a fully healthy roster once. The series is split, but it is the Clippers with a +1.8 net rating after four games.
The largest chasm between these two franchises is in shooting. The Lakers will progress to the mean from their current shooting slump, but this team ranked 24th in regular-season 3-point shooting at 34.6 percent. They also lost Avery Bradley, one of just three players on the roster who averages more two 3-point attempts per game and still shoots above 36 percent. The Clippers finished the regular season seventh in 3-point shooting at 37.1 percent.
This love for the Clippers is not a result of five poor games for their rival on a neutral court in Orlando in the midst of a pandemic. These statistics show this Clippers team has been the better of the two for a majority of the season. Maybe the results in the bubble will finally make the market realize that there is some value in that 3/1 price tag on the Clippers to win the NBA Finals.