Los Angeles Lakers vs Miami Heat

Wed Mar 4, 8:00 PM EST – ESPN, TWSN, SUN

Line: MIA -9.0, O/U: 202.0

AmericanAirlines Arena – Miami, FL

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104.1 ORTG (20)
  • 110.7 DRTG (29)
  • 94.4 Pace (11)
  • 75 DRB% (14)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (21)
  • 107.1 DRTG (22)
  • 90.2 Pace (30)
  • 74 DRB% (19)
  • 0.544 TS% (8)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Chris Bosh 21.1 ppg
  • Hassan Whiteside 9.6 rpg
  • Dwyane Wade 5.3 apg
  • Hassan Whiteside 2.4 bpg
  • Mario Chalmers 1.7 spg

My apologies for the very short preview today. Somewhat like I expect the Lakers to be tonight, I am running on fumes this particular day.

In any event, the Lakers play the Heat tonight and, as implied above, are sure to be tired after playing — and losing — last night in Charlotte. The Lakers have only won once in their 10 back to back games this season and I expect that trend to hold tonight.

It’s not that the Heat are some super-team (those days went the way of LeBron James to Cleveland), but that they are well coached and, even without Chris Bosh, do have more talent than the Lakers. These two things, in combination, should make all the difference in this game. On some nights a matchup here and a slight tweak in strategy there might be enough to put the Lakers over the top.

That’s really been the key in their wins this season, but, against the Heat, I just do not see enough. Not with Whiteside patrolling the paint and Dwyane Wade and the recently acquired Goran Dragic roaming the perimeter. Those three players are very likely to be the best three guys on the floor tonight and when that is the case, you can pretty much make winning a longshot.

Where you can watch: 5pm start time on ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Charlotte Hornets

Tue Mar 3, 7:00 PM EST – TWSN, SPSO

Line: CHA -8.5, O/U: 192.5

Time Warner Cable Arena – Charlotte, NC

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (21)
  • 110.8 DRTG (30)
  • 94.4 Pace (11)
  • 74.8 DRB% (15)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 100.4 ORTG (29)
  • 102.9 DRTG (8)
  • 92.9 Pace (23)
  • 79.5 DRB% (1)
  • 0.499 TS% (29)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Mo Williams 23.4 ppg
  • Al Jefferson 8.8 rpg
  • Mo Williams 7 apg
  • Bismack Biyombo 1.4 bpg
  • Kemba Walker 1.4 spg

The Lakers start a three game, eastern conference road trip beginning tonight in Charlotte. The Hornets sit just a half game out of the 8th seed in the woeful east, so these games matter for them a great deal. After having a surprise season last year, the Hornets fell back to earth this campaign as they’ve struggled with injuries, adjusting to Lance Stephenson’s presence on the perimeter, and the departure of Josh McRoberts to the Heat in free agency.

There was also a regression to the mean of sorts, as the team struggled to recapture it’s high functioning defense while still struggling to post an offense that could crack the top half of the league.

Ultimately, though, deciphering the difference between this season and last’s performance isn’t of the most importance right now. The Hornets would surely just like to make the playoffs, continue the good feelings from last year, and collect some extra revenue from some home playoff games in the process.

The Lakers, of course, are also playing meaningful games, but of an entirely different sort. As we’ve been discussing, every loss matters for a team who really does need to keep their draft pick. They got back on that path against the undermanned Thunder on Sunday, but that was after winning three straight games against other non-playoff teams.

Of course, if you ask the players, they’re only focused on winning. Which makes for an interesting contrast with what a large (and growing) percentage of what fans want. But that is a story for another day.

Today is mostly about a team who should nothing more than to win (the Hornets) against a team who, in theory, should want nothing more than to lose. In a perfect world (or perfect to some), both teams would come out “winners” tonight, then. We’ll see if that ends up being the case.

Where you can watch: 4pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Mar 1, 6:30 PM EST – ABC, NBAt, ESPN

Line: OKC -3.5, O/U: 197.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 106 ORTG (13)
  • 103.3 DRTG (9)
  • 95.1 Pace (7)
  • 75.3 DRB% (12)
  • 0.528 TS% (20)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Russell Westbrook 26.5 ppg
  • Enes Kanter 9 rpg
  • Russell Westbrook 8.1 apg
  • Serge Ibaka 2.4 bpg
  • Russell Westbrook 2 spg

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (20)
  • 110.8 DRTG (30)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 74.9 DRB% (15)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 7.9 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

The Lakers have won three straight games, their best such streak since December. After beating the Celtics last Sunday, wins against the Jazz and Bucks followed to give the Lakers an undefeated week. If you’re a fan of the Lakers keeping their draft pick this June, this mini-streak likely has you a bit concerned. The Lakers are tied in the loss column with the Magic now and with the Nuggets playing horribly, the 4th through 6th worst records look like they will come down to the final week of the season. The Lakers will be in this mix and all it will take is a combination of some good play and some bad luck on lottery night and the team will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the top of the draft.

Speaking of bad luck, say hello to Sunday’s opponent the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has dealt with the injury bug all season and it just continues to nip at their heels. Kevin Durant has been out for the past several games after having another minor surgery on the foot he broke. This put Russell Westbrook front and center, where he thrived as a dominant force in the month of February. But now Westbrook is out too, suffering a broken cheek bone in the team’s last game when he took an inadvertent knee to the face in the closing seconds of the loss to the Blazers.

This means that after facing a Bucks team who was dealing with a remade roster after the trade deadline, the Lakers now face a Thunder group without their top two players. With Russ and KD out, expect them to lean heavily on Serge Ibaka running pick and pops while newcomers Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and DJ Augustin try to give the team some offensive balance. In other words, the Lakers are catching a major break in facing this team at this particular moment and have a much better chance of winning this game than they did before Westbrook took that knee to his head.

As for the Lakers, they’ve been playing much more free since the trade deadline passed with Jordan Hill and Jeremy Lin, especially, looking like some weight has been lifted off their shoulders. Combine those two with the steadily improving Jordan Clarkson and the steady Ed Davis and suddenly the team has enough to keep many games competitive and close. This is more true against the bad teams of the league, but what would you call the Thunder without Durant and Russ?

In other words, the Lakers could just end up with their 4th straight win tonight. Which, if you go back to the top of this post, might not be the best team for the organization even if the players on the team would love to make it happen.

Where you can watch: 3:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and nationally on ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Feb 27, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, FSWI

Line: MIL -6.5, O/U: 193.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (22)
  • 101.7 DRTG (2)
  • 93.9 Pace (14)
  • 72 DRB% (29)
  • 0.544 TS% (8)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Brandon Knight 17.8 ppg
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo 6.6 rpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 8 apg
  • John Henson 1.9 bpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 2 spg

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (20)
  • 111 DRTG (30)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 74.9 DRB% (15)
  • 0.513 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 7.9 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

As I have said, I am not particularly fond of “tanking” or rooting for losses or any of the other negative wishes that draft pick protection inspires late in the season. So, it would be my preference to focus on Jordan Clarkson’s improving play, Ed Davis’ continued steadiness, whether Jordan Hill can carry over his good play from Wednesday’s win over the Jazz, or any other number of storylines that genuinely interest me.

I’m not going to lie, though. Those other things matter and, at some point in these last weeks of the season, I will touch on as many of them as I can. But, as it stands today, the thing that matters most is where the Lakers end up in the standings and the likelihood of them keeping their draft pick. Which means, sadly, that losses matter.

This is the conundrum fans are facing now and the battle that, honestly, sucks to play out every night. I mean, I’m quite happy with how well Jordan Clarkson is playing. Similarly, I like watching Jordan Hill or Ed Davis make plays. It’s fun to see Jeremy Lin attack the rim with zero regard for how well the defense may be positioned. But, in watching these guys succeed, the scoreboard also starts to shift in the other direction and the fallout is what happens in the standings.

To be fair, the Lakers are pretty firmly set in the 4th spot right now, between Minnesota and Orlando. But, even with that being the case, the anxiousness persists. A 4th worst record doesn’t guarantee a top 5 pick and as long as the pick is not secured the doubts will remain. Last year these feelings were somewhat there, but not to this level as there was no fear that the Lakers would lose their pick. Sliding down from 5th to 7th seemed like a big deal at the time, but it’s nothing like the prospect of going from a 5th to nothing at all.

I say all this not because I have joined the ranks of rooting for losses, but rather because the anguish of enduring through this type of fandom is something that I wish I weren’t experiencing and something I hope to never experience again. I wish I had something to say about the Bucks in this space, but I really don’t. This is what the season has come to. Honestly, I can’t wait until it’s over and there is some finality to it all.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Utah Jazz

Wed Feb 25, 9:00 PM EST – ROOT, TWSN

Line: UTA -10.0, O/U: 192.0

EnergySolutions Arena – Salt Lake City, UT

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (21)
  • 111.1 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75 DRB% (15)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 105.8 ORTG (15)
  • 107.8 DRTG (24)
  • 90.4 Pace (29)
  • 75.7 DRB% (9)
  • 0.532 TS% (18)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Gordon Hayward 19.6 ppg
  • Derrick Favors 8.2 rpg
  • Trey Burke 4.6 apg
  • Rudy Gobert 2.2 bpg
  • Chris Johnson 1.5 spg

It’s a Celebration! Actually, no, no it’s not.

When your team is bad, these are things, I suppose that come up. If you missed the “news” you are better off than I am, but I will now drag you down with me explain it to you. After beating the Boston Celtics on Sunday, several Lakers’ players — Nick Young, Jordan Hill, and Carlos Boozer, to be specific — celebrated the victory by, essentially, acting a silly and hamming it up for the camera during post game interviews. When the tape of this celebration was showed to Kobe Bryant and, subsequently, Byron Scott, it became an issue as those actions were deemed unprofessional and, gasp!, not the Laker way.

Honestly, I couldn’t really care less about this subject, but, again, when you’re bad, these are the things you end up talking about. My opinion is pretty straight forward: those guys acted a bit over the top, but did so after a game in which they almost lost, came back to win in OT, and against a rival that, before the game, their head coach discussed his strong dislike of (even noting that he wouldn’t coach for them if offered the job). So, this is an opponent the team was expected to get up for, actually won (only their 14th win out of too many to count), and then got a bit out of hand when expressing their happiness about said win. So, while I see both sides of this, I tend to lean towards this being mostly harmless fun by a group of guys who probably haven’t had much fun this season.

Anyways, the Lakers’ celebration will likely end tonight as they face a Jazz team who, the last time they played, beat them fairly easily. In that game Gordan Hayward did his best impersonation of Rick Barry, scoring easily, dishing out dimes, and working the glass well. Hayward showed he was clearly the best player on the floor and led his team to victory handily. Tonight, then, it would be prudent to try and slow down Hayward if the Lakers want to win this game. Only, you know, they really don’t have a person capable of doing so. Unless something dramatic changes, Ryan Kelly will start at SF and, as it’s been when he has played this position in all other games this season, will be ill-suited to defend a quality wing like Hayward. Kelly simply lacks the foot speed and perimeter defensive chops to do much to contain a player of Hayward’s quality.

If the Lakers can’t slow Hayward, their next best bet is to contain the rest of the roster to minimize their impact. That mostly means limiting Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Trey Burke, Dante Exum, and Trevor Booker. With the recent trade of Enes Kanter, that is one less big body who can score to deal with, but his moving on also means more of Gobert, a giant of a man with athleticism and burgeoning feel for how to exploit that on both ends of the court. Gobert’s emergence will make matters hard on the Lakers’ bigs when they try to score inside and test their pick and roll and transition defense when he’s diving to the rim looking for lobs or put back dunks. Combine him with Favors and the perimeter play of Burke and Exum (who, late in his rookie year, is starting to catch on to how to make things happen at this level) and the Lakers are likely to be outgunned.

This is especially true with the Lakers on the road, in Utah — a notoriously hard place to play. The team will need above average play from multiple players, but the only way I see them hanging tough is if Nick Young (Young is not playing) and Jeremy Lin provide a nice push off the bench when they are matched up with the Jazz reserves. I am already counting on the Lakers’ starters struggling to keep pace (the Hayward match up alone swings things their way a large amount), but there is a chance that can be countered by some shotmaking from Young and Lin. If Davis can continue his recent strong play, this may well be a game.

I just don’t count on it.

Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.