The Los Angeles Lakers resume their quest for their first championship in 10 years as they kick off the 2019-20 NBA restart in Orlando, Florida. For what it’s worth, lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer would be very special for the Purple and Gold franchise — for several reasons.
The Lakers’ first of eight games is against the rival Los Angeles Clippers on July 30. They will compete over a two-week stretch to get their legs back under them and prepare for the postseason — while hopefully retaining their top spot in the Western Conference.
The LA Clippers' (44-20) schedule for the Orlando restart:
Game 1: Lakers
Game 2: Pelicans
Game 3: Suns
Game 4: Mavs
Game 5: Blazers
Game 6: Nets
Game 7: Nuggets
Game 8: Thunder pic.twitter.com/eS2RhDiovz
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) June 26, 2020
With that said, here are the Lakers’ best matchups when the season returns this July.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder [August 5]
The Lakers play Chris Paul and the Thunder, a potential second-round matchup in the playoffs if OKC erases its one-game deficit in the standings.
The Thunder are very unique team in 2020. They traded for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in the Paul George deal, and both have definitely over-performed on the Billy Donovan-coached squad. Both Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander can pull up and knock down from outside (an area the Lakers are desperately seeking help), while Steven Adams is capable of battling Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis down low.
The Lakers shouldn’t take OKC lightly, and this might be a second-round preview soon to come.
4. Utah Jazz [August 3]
The Jazz, on the other hand, are the other team in that 4-5 Western Conference seeding matchup that may come out of the first round and face off with the Lakers in the playoffs.
Utah made headlines due to All-Star center Rudy Gobert testing positive for coronavirus, which eventually led to the NBA suspending the season. All-Star shooting guard teammate Donovan Mitchell later tested positive and had been rumored to have a rift with the Defensive Player of the Year.
What will the Jazz be like in the NBA’s restart? Will Mitchell and Gobert click after reportedly burying the hatchet? The Lakers will find that out on Aug. 3 with one less body to defend Mitchell, as veteran guard Avery Bradley decided to sit out the Orlando restart.
3. Houston Rockets [August 6]
The Houston Rockets won’t go down without a fight, that’s for sure.
While the Lakers possess one of the league’s best defenses and a jumbo-sized frontcourt and team, the Rockets went small, trading starting center Clint Capela for, among other pieces, 3-and-D specialist Robert Covington. Houston is likely to play forward PJ Tucker at the five spot, spreading the court for star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook to operate.
Houston also has a chance to sneak into the 4-5 seed and face off with the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs, so this could be a preview and a test for L.A. against two of the league’s brightest stars in the Rockets’ backcourt duo.
2. Toronto Raptors [August 1]
The Raptors have the second-best record in the East and if anybody can take down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, it’s Toronto.
While Kawhi Leonard dipped to L.A. with the Clippers, the Raptors remain very dangerous with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and much more on this deep team — much like the Lakers.
The Siakam-Davis matchup is a salivating one, and L.A.’s performance against the reigning champs could indicate where the matchup goes if these two meet in the 2020 Finals.
1. Los Angeles Clippers [July 30]
The Lakers’ best matchup out of these eight games is their first, playing Leonard, Paul George and rival Clippers in late July.
The Purple and Gold franchise has a bit of unfinished business against the Clippers due to the season’s suspension, cutting short four highly anticipated contests between the Staples Center co-tenants.
The Clippers, 5.5 games behind the Lakers for first place in the West, won two out of three in their regular season matchups this year, but the fourth could be an explosive tilt as both L.A. franchises battle for championship glory.
A fully healthy and rested James and Davis versus Leonard and George is the long-awaited series people were dreaming about this time last year.