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Los Angeles Lakers vs Brooklyn Nets

Sun Mar 29, 3:30 PM EST – YES, TWSN, C+D

Line: BKN -6.5, O/U: 200.0

Barclays Center – Brooklyn, NY

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (23)
  • 109.7 DRTG (28)
  • 94.1 Pace (12)
  • 75.9 DRB% (9)
  • 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

  • 103.6 ORTG (22)
  • 107 DRTG (22)
  • 92.7 Pace (24)
  • 73.4 DRB% (24)
  • 0.526 TS% (21)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Brook Lopez 16.4 ppg
  • Brook Lopez 7 rpg
  • Deron Williams 6.3 apg
  • Brook Lopez 1.7 bpg
  • Thaddeus Young 1.3 spg

I would not blame you if some of the games in the NCAA tournament took on a greater importance to you than some of these Lakers’ games. On Saturday night, Kentucky played Notre Dame in a game that came down to the final seconds with Kentucky pulling out the win at the end. Coach Cal’s Wildcats feature at least three top prospects and a couple of big men (Karl Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein) who could help the Lakers next season (assuming LA’s top 5 pick is retained), so watching how they do under the bright lights of the tourney might be a better use of your time than this incarnation of the Lakers.

That might sound harsh, but it’s true. The Lakers are in the final stretch of a brutal season, a season that has teams feeling pretty bad after losses and after wins. Blame the system, blame the pick protection, blame whatever you want, but the fact is watching this team play is one of the least enjoyable things to do right now. The game’s only meaning, from a win-loss standpoint, are to gauge how they affect keeping the draft pick — a pick that may not even pan out, even though we currently find ourselves lusting for it. The entire thing leaves me feeling hollow and, honestly, just sad.

Meanwhile, there is a different type of meaning attached to these games for the Lakers’ opponents. Friday’s game against the Raptors was about a struggling Eastern playoff team finding its rhythm and trying to maintain home court advantage in the first round. Today’s game has the Brooklyn Nets trying to get into the second season over these final few weeks of the season. The Nets currently reside in 9th place in the conference, only a half game out of 8th behind the Boston Celtics. The Nets should especially want to make the playoffs since they truly have little incentive to lose in terms of their draft pick. As part of the Joe Johnson trade with the Hawks, Atlanta has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn, making it within the realm of possibility that the Nets end up with pick in late 20’s while the Hawks add a lottery pick this June.

With that, the Nets have been making a push in the last couple of weeks, finally starting to play a style that is conducive to winning. It helps that they’re healthier than they have been most of the year, but it also helps that Brook Lopez is again resembling the big man who, just a couple of seasons ago, was considered one of the elite scoring big men in the league. Add to that the steady Johnson, an improved Deron Williams (who was looking quite washed up earlier in the year) and the Nets have enough a talent base to be competitive.

As for this game, then, the key match ups will be Lopez against the Black, Sacre, Davis trio and whether Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin can match buckets with Williams and Johnson. My gut tells me that the Nets win out in these battles (especially with how Lopez has been playing of late), but the alternative would not surprise me. Those specific Lakers, though it’s done little to earn wins, have been playing quite well since the all-star break and have held their own in most match ups and, in turn, kept games close. If today’s game comes down to the final minutes — as many others have in the past month — anything can happen.

Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Toronto Raptors

Fri Mar 27, 7:30 PM EST – TWSN, TSN2

Line: TOR -8.0, O/U: 203.5

Air Canada Centre – Toronto, ON

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.7 ORTG (21)
  • 109.7 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75.9 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

  • 111 ORTG (4)
  • 108 DRTG (25)
  • 93.1 Pace (21)
  • 73.5 DRB% (22)
  • 0.551 TS% (6)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • DeMar DeRozan 19.4 ppg
  • Jonas Valanciunas 8.8 rpg
  • Kyle Lowry 6.9 apg
  • Jonas Valanciunas 1.2 bpg
  • Kyle Lowry 1.5 spg

Game three of the Lakers’ five game road trip takes the team to Toronto to face the Raptors. The Lakers are coming off a win in Minnesota — a contest that saw Jordan Clarkson sink two free throws with .3 seconds left to win the game in overtime. The game, though close and offering intrigue at the end, wasn’t much to watch, however. Most of the contest was an utterly joyless affair, with two teams who would be better off losing trading off-target jabs with a lot of clutching and grabbing. At one point, I commented on twitter that both teams seemed to be simply throwing their bodies into each other in order to gain favor from the referees and earn a trip to the foul line. Not the best way to entertain fans, to say the least.

In a way, it was strange that one team actually claimed a win at the end. That team happened to be the Lakers and put them at 1-1 on their trip and winners of two of their last five games. That 2-3 mark is actually the same as the Raptors, a team that has been decidedly up and down since the all-star break (and, if we’re being honest, longer than that after their strong start to the season). In fact, the Raptors are only 4-6 in their last 10 contests, which is only a single win better than the Lakers. Their recent poor play has dropped them to 4th in the East and only two games up on the equally up and down Wizards for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

It’s hard to put a finger on a single aspect of the Raptors play that has them struggling this way. They are pretty much healthy, though Kyle Lowry has been dealing with back spasms and may not play tonight. But, otherwise, DeMar DeRozan has been back in the lineup after missing games earlier in the year due to a lower leg issue. The rest of their rotation is in tact, they just aren’t defending as well as they need to nor finding the rhythm and cohesiveness on offense that they could have considering the talent on their roster. To steal a phrase I saw on twitter last night, the Raptors are more “East good” than a real threat to challenge for anything more than a 2nd round an out playoff run.

This isn’t bad, per se, but it’s not what the team would have hoped for after the way their year started. At one point, the Raps were the surprise of the East and looking like a team that could make real noise in the East. They have since been surpassed by the Hawks and the Bulls in the standings and don’t look like they could come close to challenging the Cavs should they meet in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Whether or not that type of fate would have any affect on Dwayne Casey’s status as head coach or their roster construction would remain to be seen, but after GM Masai Ujiri stood pat at the trade deadline (giving his players a vote of confidence in the process), changes could be made in the off-season.

That’s a discussion for another day, however. Tonight, the Raps will look to get back on track against a Lakers’ team that has been looking feisty (though still losing) and has their backcourt playing well. Byron Scott will be back coaching tonight after missing the last two games dealing with his mother’s passing away, and his presence is likely to provide an emotional bounce to the group.

The team, then, might be even more dangerous than it has been lately which could cause issues to the Raps, especially if Lowry sits out and if their defense can’t keep Clarkson and Lin out of the lane. Even with Boozer and Hill unlikely to play — the two big men have been out of the rotation as the team gives Ryan Kelly a chance to play his natural PF position — the team’s big man rotation of Ed Davis and Tarik Black will work the glass and the offensive paint on the P&R and provide solid back line rotations defensively. If that comes with Kelly hitting some shots and Wayne Ellington finding his range as well, I could see this game being much more competitive than the standings would imply it should be.

Where you can watch: 4:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

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.