April 6 State of the Lakers

J.M. Poulard —  April 6, 2013

With the victory over the Memphis Grizzlies (51-25) last night, the Los Angeles Lakers (40-36) are undefeated in the last seven days. They’ve won three games in a row during the stretch and it’s helped solidify their grip on the final Western Conference playoff spot for the moment.

The string of victories started on March  30 against the Sacramento Kings (27-49) and continued on April 2 in a rout of the Dallas Mavericks (37-39).

The Lake Show then took out the Grizzlies on April 5 thanks to a solid defensive effort.

The Hollinger Playoff Odds give the Lakers a 60.5 percent chance of making the postseason. Those are the best chances for any team seeded lower than seventh in the west.

Here’s a quick look at the Lakers’ remaining April schedule courtesy of NBA.com:

Lakers Schedule

Now here’s a breakdown of the remaining games:

  • Games left: 6
  • Home games: 4
  • Road games: 2 (one of them versus Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center)
  • Games versus opponents with .500 record or better: 4
  • Games versus opponents with sub-.500 record: 2

The schedule is relatively tough, but the majority of the contests will be held at Staples Center and one has to like the Lakers’ chances in their home venue.

Given that Mike D’Antoni and company are embroiled in a heated battle with the Utah Jazz (40-37) for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs, let’s see how their schedule shakes out:

  • Games left: 5
  • Home games: 2
  • Road games: 3
  • Games versus opponents with .500 record or better: 3
  • Games versus opponents with sub-.500 record: 2

The Jazz’s final game of the regular season is against the Memphis Grizzlies. In the event the Grizz are locked into their playoff spot at that point, they might opt to rest their core players. It’s a hypothetical obviously, but an important one.

The Purple and Gold has won six of their past 10 games and might be headed in the right direction currently. The best thing the Lakers can do at this point is simply win out.

That would assure them of a postseason berth and a date in the first round of the playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs (56-20) or Oklahoma City Thunder (56-20).

Laker of the Week

Expecting a 17-year veteran to play like your best guy every single night seems like an utterly ridiculous proposition. But Kobe Bryant as well as his teammates probably disagree given Vino’s productivity this season.

More importantly, with the Western Conference’s final playoff spot well within reach in the past week or so, the Lakers needed not only guidance but also assertiveness from their leader.

With Steve Nash and Metta World Peace both injured, it forced Bryant to step his game up all the while dealing with his own nicks and bruises that prevent him from resting for long stretches during games.

Kobe looked exhausted late in the Memphis game last night and even conducted part of the post-game interview with both hands clenching his shorts as he bent over from fatigue.

Make no mistake, the playoffs have already begun in Lakerland and Bryant’s play in this past week is proof. In the last seven days, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer has averaged 45.7 minutes (!), 22 points, 11.3 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game on 39 percent field goal shooting.

He might not be shooting the ball well currently, but he’s definitely been the catalyst for the improved play of the team with his offensive contributions and defensive focus.

Black Mamba sir, you are the Laker of the week.

Layups and swats

Earlier in the week, the Los Angeles Clippers hosted the Phoenix Suns in a game that turned into a blowout. During the contest, Clippers play-by-play man Ralph Lawler commented on Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retirement ceremony and pointed to the amount of retired Laker jerseys hanging in the rafters of Staples Center.

In a brief moment of sheer brilliance and on-air comedy, Lawler acknowledged that Staples Center offered a whole lot of vacant air space in the rafters for Clippers jerseys. Then he gave the viewing audience comedy gold by affirming the stadium only needed room for three additional retired jerseys: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and LeBron James after he joins the team in 2014.

If that doesn’t speak to the difference between Lakers and Clippers, well nothing does.

J.M. Poulard