The Los Angeles Lakers are rolling, the latest bit of evidence coming in the form of a 114-112 victory against the Boston Celtics on Sunday night.
With the win, the Lakers stretched their Western Conference leading record to 43-12 and are a comfy five games ahead of the Denver Nuggets. Despite that, there is still a sentiment that the Lakers might be trailing behind the Clippers, who are 2-0 against their LA rival this season. Noted basketball analyst and podcaster Bill Simmons thinks that line of thought is way off.
“I actually think the Lakers might be underrated,” Simmons said on his latest podcast. “Their schedule is going to get easier and they are going to run away with the No. 1 seed. I don’t think anybody is going to touch them. And unless Milwaukee makes the Finals against them, they will probably have home court too.”
Lakers Just Better Right Now, Says Simmons
Simmons took it one step further, saying the Clippers — led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — are not close to the LeBron James and Anthony Davis propelled Lakers.
“I don’t care how good Kawhi was last year and I don’t care about how good he can be game to game,” Simmons said. “To me, it’s not close. I think the Lakers are just better right now.
“What have [the Clippers] shown us for the first four months? There’s no consistency at all. They’re getting their ass kicked by the Kings. The rhetoric is all of a team that seems to be in more trouble than maybe they’re letting on. If I was a Clipper fan, I’d be losing my mind, completely panicking.”
Monday marked just the fifth time this season that the Clippers had their entire roster available. Both Leonard and George have dealt with injuries, also missing games due to load management. According to ESPN, the Clippers started their 29th different lineup in a 124-97 blowout of Memphis on Monday night.
“That has been the hand we’ve been dealt,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters. “And we have to play that hand, and we can play that hand and still win it.”
Bill Simmons Questions Clippers Blockbuster for Paul George
The Clippers made the biggest splash of free agency, landing both Leonard and George in moves that were announced just minutes apart. Leonard signed as a free agent, but the Clippers gave up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari and multiple first round picks to pry George from Oklahoma City.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but Simmons believes the Clippers would be better off without George and with the assets they gave away.
“This did not turn out great. I think even if this all works out in their favor and Paul George comes back and everybody can stay healthy in the playoffs — I think with what they have, I still feel like the Lakers are better,” Simmons said. “There’s a chance they might not make the Finals over the next two years and they might get completely gutted.”
Gilgeous-Alexander has shined with Oklahoma City in his second year with 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while Gallinari is averaging 19.4 points per game. There’s a chance the Thunder and Clippers could meet in the first round of the playoffs in a No. 6 vs. No. 3 seed matchup.
“My point is, just pure basketball, for this team for what we’ve seen this year, I think they’d be better off with SGA and Gallinari,” Simmons said. “George has been hurt this whole season and then when he’s out there, he’s kind of a ball stopper. He’s a little bit redundant with Kawhi in some ways. Then they go out and get Marcus Morris, another ball stopper. Then last week, the coup de grace, Reggie Jackson — yet another ball stopper, who’s not afraid at all to take the biggest shot of the game with 30 seconds left. I don’t like the makeup of this team and I think it’s more likely they get upset in Round 1 than they make the Finals.”
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