Los Angeles Lakers vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Wed Mar 25, 8:00 PM EST – FSN, TWSN

Line: MIN -2.0, O/U: 202.5

Target Center – Minneapolis, MN

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.7 ORTG (23)
  • 109.9 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75.8 DRB% (10)
  • 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

  • 102.8 ORTG (25)
  • 111.1 DRTG (30)
  • 94.6 Pace (10)
  • 72.2 DRB% (30)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kevin Martin 20.2 ppg
  • Gorgui Dieng 8.5 rpg
  • Ricky Rubio 8.8 apg
  • Gorgui Dieng 1.7 bpg
  • Corey Brewer 2.3 spg

The Lakers play their 2nd game in as many nights Wednesday, a face off with the Timberwolves in Minnesota where as March turns to April there is still snow on the ground. The Lakers played an entertaining game against the Thunder on Tuesday, ultimately falling 127-117. The game was dominated by Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter on the Thunder’s side, but rookie Jordan Clarkson also played very well, as did his backcourt mate Jeremy Lin.

Clarkson notched a career high 30 points on only 19 FGA’s, while also grabbing 4 rebounds, dishing out 7 assists, and blocking 3 shots. His all around night was his best game of the year, not just because of the points he scored, but because he displayed an all-court, efficient game with a real decisiveness and poise. Lin, meanwhile, scored 19 points on only 11 FGA’s while dishing out 7 assists as well.

Tonight, both players will hope to carry that momentum forward, though playing on the 2nd night of a back to back will make that more difficult. A bit of a reprieve may come if Ricky Rubio sits out his 4th straight game with a sore right ankle, but that only puts rookie Zach LaVine into more of a prominent role and the last time he played against the Lakers he was on fire from all over the court. Add in the likelihood that Andrew Wiggins gets to cheat off Wesley Johnson and spend some time on either Lin or Clarkson and the match ups only get tougher on offense.

In saying all that, though, the Wolves are simply not a very good team right now. Their injury report has a rotation full of players on it (besides Rubio, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Nikola Pekovic, and Gary Neal are all either questionable or ruled out for this game) and the lack of manpower alone should make this game close. The Lakers, even though they are likely to be tired, still have enough talent to win this game — or at least keep it close for its entirety.

As for the daily discussion about the lottery and the odds of the Lakers keeping their pick, the Wolves just happen to be one of the teams with a worse record than them. The Lakers are currently 2.5 games better than the Wolves, but a loss to them tonight would shave a game off that. So, in that regard, this game might be pretty important. However, much like the Philly game, the Wolves are bad (and injured) enough that a loss to them may not be in the cards. We shall see.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Tue Mar 24, 8:00 PM EST – TNT

Line: OKC -10.5, O/U: 212.0

Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (23)
  • 109.6 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 76 DRB% (7)
  • 0.513 TS% (26)

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

  • 107.2 ORTG (10)
  • 104.1 DRTG (12)
  • 95.5 Pace (7)
  • 75.4 DRB% (12)
  • 0.532 TS% (19)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Russell Westbrook 27.5 ppg
  • Enes Kanter 10.5 rpg
  • Russell Westbrook 8.7 apg
  • Serge Ibaka 2.4 bpg
  • Russell Westbrook 2.2 spg

The Lakers start a 5 game road trip today, heading to Oklahoma City to face the fighting-for-their-playoff-lives Thunder. OKC is currently 2.5 games up on the 9th seeded Suns and 3 games up on the 10th seeded Pelicans. With only 12 games left, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for the Thunder, but any slips and decline in play over these final 3 weeks of the season could see them replaced in the playoff mix by one of the two teams below them.

That is not very likely, however, and that is mostly because of one Russell Westbrook. Even though the Thunder made some impressive maneuvers at the trade deadline to remake their bench, it has been Westbrook who has carried the team in every imaginable way, scoring at an obscene rate while putting up triple doubles like crazy. The former Bruin now leads the league in scoring and is must watch basketball every night simply to see how his combination of physical superiority combined with incredible will make for highlight after highlight.

While I give Westbrook the lion’s share of the credit, he is not winning games by himself. As Durant’s foot issues linger and keep him out of games and a recent knee issue with Serge Ibaka, the aforementioned trades that fortified OKC’s roster have being paying off a great deal. Enes Kanter has been revitalized after leaving the Jazz, flashing the scoring and rebounding ability that landed him in the high lottery. DJ Augustin has been steady as a back up PG (replacing Reggie Jackson) and playing next to Westbrook in some lineups. Mitch McGary, though already on the team, has also found some minutes in the big man rotation and been fantastic as an energy player who can score inside, run the floor, and rebound the ball.

All of this has added up to a dangerous team who is playing well. Their ceiling is not what it would be if Durant and Ibaka were healthy, but with Russ playing at this level and the role players all showing their worth, they are winning games on offense and doing just enough on defense to not get behind.

On the Lakers’ end, they are coming off a win of their own, downing the terrible 76ers on Sunday. They look to carry that momentum forward tonight, though will try to do so without head coach Byron Scott who remains in Los Angeles tending to family business following the passing away of his mother. Scott has endured a lot this year on the court via his team’s struggles, but the loss of a parent is on another level entirely. I wish him and his family nothing but the best in their time of mourning. Hopefully, for him, his team plays well for him in his absence.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Philadelphia 76ers vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Mar 22, 9:30 PM EST – TWSN, CSNP

Line: LAL -4.5, O/U: 195.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 94.4 ORTG (30)
  • 104 DRTG (11)
  • 95.9 Pace (6)
  • 73.6 DRB% (22)
  • 0.493 TS% (30)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Tony Wroten 16.9 ppg
  • Thomas Robinson 8.4 rpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 7.4 apg
  • Nerlens Noel 1.9 bpg
  • Nerlens Noel 1.8 spg

Ranks

  • 103.4 ORTG (23)
  • 109.8 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.512 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

How much is the Lakers’ 2015 draft pick worth? Who wants to lose more? These two questions are tied together today as the Lakers play the 76ers in a direct battle of organizations who really are fighting for the same thing. If you need a recap, here you go:

  • The Lakers 2015 draft pick is top 5 protected due to the trade with the Suns that netted them Steve Nash.
  • In a trade deadline deal between the Bucks, 76ers, and Suns, three point guards changed teams. Brandon Knight went from Milwaukee to Phoenix, Michael Carter Williams went from Philly to Milwaukee, and Isaiah Thomas went from Phoenix to Philly.
  • Included in the package that went to Philly from the Suns was the Lakers’ top-5 protected pick. The 76ers subsequently traded Thomas to the Celtics for more draft picks.

So, the Suns no longer own the Lakers’ protected pick — the 76ers do. At the time of the trade, the Suns’ front office said they did not feel the Lakers would convey the pick this year and that it was much more likely it would be conveyed next summer. That lessened the value of the pick (in their eyes) and made it a more tradable asset.

It seems, however, that the 76ers think differently. And today, they play in Los Angeles with a chance to help reinforce that thought process through direct competition. So, I ask again, which team wants to lose more and how much is the Lakers’ 2015 draft pick worth? Both teams on the floor have a vested interest in this asset and we shall see how, if at all, it affects the game on the floor.

A peak at the standings tells us that both the Lakers and 76ers have 17 wins. The 76ers have 52 losses and the Lakers have 50. This leaves the 76ers with the 3rd worst record in the league and the Lakers the 4th worst. Should the Lakers lose this game, however, Philly will leapfrog them for the 4th worst record with the Lakers moving “up” to the 3rd worst. For those scoring at home, the Lakers’ odds of keeping their draft pick this June go up from roughly a 50/50 83% chance to about an 80% 96% chance of retaining their pick if they close the season with the 3rd worst record rather than the 4th worst. In other words, today’s game against the 76ers (and the 2nd time they face off before the end of the season) are sort of a big deal when it comes to the lottery race.

Do I expect the players to openly play poorly or not hard? No, I do not. Do I think we might see some questionable rotations from both coaches or guys get longer stretches on the floor/key minutes who normally might not? Maybe. I don’t think either team’s decision makers will gun for a loss, but I’d be lying if I said I thought neither side were aware of the things I typed above. I can almost say for certain that Philly does.

In any event, this is the backdrop to today’s game. Yes, there are some interesting match ups on the floor — namely I’m interested in seeing Philly rookie big man Nerlens Noel match up against the Lakers’ front line — but the more interesting thing will be to me the ramifications of this game on what happens off the floor come the lottery drawing in the lead up to the June draft. This game just means too much from that angle to ignore. No matter what either team says.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Many Lakers’ fans (or maybe they’re a very vocal subset) would just as soon forget Steve Nash’s entire tenure as a Laker. After all, over his three year contract, he was only really fully healthy for a single game. After breaking his leg in his second regular season game, and then having his recovery and rehab continuously lose out to setbacks, we never got to see what he could really offer. As I have written, fans (and, to a certain extent his teammates and the organization) have a right to feel frustrated about that. Not as frustrated as Nash, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Those days are in the past, though. Just as, it seems, Nash’s pursuit of ever playing in the NBA again is in the past. Today Steve Nash announced his retirement via a self penned column at The Player’s Tribune:

I’m retiring.

I heard someone once say there comes a day when they tell us all that we can’t play anymore. We’re not good enough. Surplus to requirements. Too slow, maybe. When you’re a teenager with outsized dreams and a growing obsession, and someone tells you this ain’t gonna last forever, it’s scary. I never forgot it.

So what did I do? Stayed obsessed. Set goals. Worked. Dreamed. Schemed. Pushed myself beyond what was normal or expected. I looked at my hero, Isiah Thomas, and thought to myself, “OK, I’m nowhere near the player he is but if I get better every day for 5 or 10 years, why can’t I be as good as him?”

The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.

And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift.

Nash went on to thank many of the people who helped him along the way, fittingly deflecting and giving credit to those around him just as he did all those years with the Suns and the Mavs. As for his time with the Lakers, Nash briefly touched on that part of his career too:

When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire. I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the “fire,” and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter. In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same.

Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center. It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories. There’s been a lot of negativity online, but in my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts. There’s a lot of class in Lakerland, and the organization and staff have given me unwavering support.

As I noted on twitter, That 2013 season will always be a huge what if for me. What if Nash never breaks his leg, what if Dwight didn’t return so early in the season, what if Kobe doesn’t play that insane number of minutes down the stretch of the season, what if, what if…

Of course, we can’t play that game. What happened, happened. And in the wake of all that is the team we see in front of us now. I will never blame Nash for any of that, though. What happened to him — and as part of the domino effect, the team — was unfortunate. But he’s not to blame. In a way, no one really is. There was always risk in acquiring him, but what has played out over the last three years is the worst case scenario for his time here. I’m sure as hell happy I’m not judged as a person based off the worst version of myself.

In any event, best of luck to Nash in his post basketball life. Things may not have worked out with the Lakers, but he had a great career and he was always one of my favorite players to watch. I will miss him.

Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Lakers

Thu Mar 19, 10:30 PM EST – ROOT, TWSN

Line: UTA -4.5, O/U: 183.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 105.4 ORTG (15)
  • 105.5 DRTG (15)
  • 90.1 Pace (30)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.532 TS% (17)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Gordon Hayward 19.7 ppg
  • Rudy Gobert 8.9 rpg
  • Trey Burke 4.4 apg
  • Rudy Gobert 2.3 bpg
  • Chris Johnson 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 103.7 ORTG (21)
  • 110 DRTG (28)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75.8 DRB% (10)
  • 0.513 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

There was a point in time, maybe earlier this season, for sure last season, that you’d have looked at the Jazz then looked at the Lakers and not seen much difference. Yes, the Jazz had “potential” in the wings with some of their young players, but a combination of poor coaching and what seemed to be the unfulfilled promise of some of those young players it seemed they would be perpetually in the lottery where they could simply collect another young player to add to their collection. The Lakers, meanwhile, were/are in their downturn with less players who had the p-word attached to their trajectory, but similarly lacking in an ability to win games.

The difference today, however, is that the Lakers’ downturn is still very much a real thing and the Jazz have begun to cash in on that potential and turned it into tangible progress. Credit a lot of factors — the maturity of the players, a young big (Rudy Gobert) proving to be a steal of his draft class, Quin Snyder proving to be the right leader to steward this group of guys — but the fact is that this team has taken a step forward this season. They have won 11 of their 14 games since the all-star break and showing that they will be a team to be reckoned with — if they aren’t already — if they continue on this path.

The backdrop for this game, then, is a lot about what one team who is starting to turn the corner after an especially long bend and a team who hopes to do the same. Only, you know, a lot faster. This, of course, has been one of the themes of the season — something that will happen in a league full of teams who have set a desirable foundation while your team is still drawing up the blueprints.

As for the action on the floor, these teams have squared off several times this year to this point so the game will likely go as the others have. The Jazz have the best player on either team (Gordon Hayward) and enough talent on their front line in Derrick Favors and Gobert to neutralize the Lakers’ best positional strength. For those still rooting for Lakers’ wins, the hope would be that the team’s quality depth and 2nd unit can outdue their Jazz counterparts to the point that the game is interesting in the 4th quarter and down the stretch where, in this league, anything can happen. After all, the Jazz, for all their strides, are still a young team who can make mistakes in games that are close late.

Of course, for those of you who want the Lakers to not win, you probably won’t have to hope too hard. You can likely skim the game and tune into the NCAA tourney to dream about the next prospect who can, hopefully, help build the type of foundation the Jazz have already started to form.

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