Archives For

The Lakers are back from their three game east coast road trip, losers of all three games and four in a row overall. Even with those losses, however, fans are probably getting exactly what they want. The team has made strides since the all-star break and are undoubtedly playing better basketball. They are competitive for longer in games, but, on most nights, aren’t able to sustain through the final buzzer to hold on. The other team often makes a run in the 4th quarter, seizes control, and the Lakers just don’t have the guns to come back. This style of game allows fans to see progress in terms of on court play, while securing the losses that help cement a record that has a strong chance of allowing team to hold on to their draft pick this June. In other words it’s a win-“win”.

While many Lakers fans can live with what their team is going through right now, the same might not be able to be said about those who root for tonight’s opponent. The Mavs have lost two in a row and four of their last five. And while they still boast a very impressive 40-24 record heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, their recent slide has dropped them to 7th in the conference behind the surging Spurs. And while the difference between the 5/6/7 seeds in the West is only one game, the fact is that even a climb up to 5th doesn’t get them home court advantage and would still leave them matched up Houston or Portland (likely) or the Grizz in the first round while giving up home court advantage. In other words, a bloodbath of a first round series where they have to win (at least) one game on the road to advance.

What a brutal conference.

In saying all that, you would think this game would serve a nice opportunity for the Mavs to get right. The Lakers are an inferior opponent and, even though they are playing at home, can expect to experience some “first game back from a road trip” rust that always seems to occur. When you add the return of Chandler Parsons to the Mavs, they will get the extra boost they have been missing of late and a reestablishing of proper slotting of players into roles and rotations. This should all combine to the Mavs coming out strong, playing hungry, and looking to get back on track as they head into the final quarter of the season and push towards their goal of playing their best as the playoffs begin.

Something about all this doesn’t feel right to me, though. As noted above, and despite the W/L results,  the Lakers have been playing better of late. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers’ efficiency differential is only -1.2, good for 15th best in the league during that period. This may not seem very good (and it’s really nothing to write home about), but is well ahead of their -6.4 differential on the season and it’s much better than the Mavs’ -4.6 differential (5th worst in the league) during that same period. Looking at these numbers puts this match up in a bit of a different light and it would not surprise me at all if the game is closer than the team’s records say it should be.

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the match up that intrigues me the most is Jordan Clarkson versus Rajon Rondo. Clarkson is coming off a career scoring night (25 points) against the Grizzlies and took it to Mike Conley and Courtney Lee for stretches of that contest. Rondo has a reputation as a top defender at his position so I am interested to see if Clarkson can continue his recent roll. Expect to see the rookie run a fair amount of P&R, especially involving whoever Dirk is guarding, so he can try to force a switch or attack the big German in space to try and get into the lane. If Clarkson can turn the corner before Rondo can recover, he has a chance to get off good shots in the mid-range or draw in Tyson Chandler and get the Mavs into their defensive rotations. From there Clarkson will need to make smart shoot/pass decisions and find ways to pick out the open man, though I imagine the easiest read for him will be to hit Jordan Hill popping as a release valve for long two point jumpers.

If Clarkson can make those reads well and keep the defense off-balance, I’ve a feeling Jeremy Lin will be able to do the same with the second unit. Add in some shot making from Wayne Ellington and strong energy/effort nights from Ed Davis and Tarik Black and, like I said, I could see this game being a lot closer than anticipated in the 4th quarter. We’ll see how it all plays out.

Where you can watch: 6:30PM start time on TWC Sportsnet locally and NBA TV nationally. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Memphis Grizzlies

Fri Mar 6, 8:00 PM EST – TWSN, SPSO

Line: MEM -11.5, O/U: 196.0

FedExForum – Memphis, TN

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.9 ORTG (21)
  • 110.5 DRTG (28)
  • 94.5 Pace (10)
  • 75 DRB% (12)
  • 0.514 TS% (24)

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

  • 106.6 ORTG (11)
  • 102.5 DRTG (6)
  • 91.9 Pace (26)
  • 74.7 DRB% (16)
  • 0.533 TS% (18)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Marc Gasol 18.2 ppg
  • Zach Randolph 11.6 rpg
  • Mike Conley 5.3 apg
  • Marc Gasol 1.7 bpg
  • Tony Allen 1.9 spg

The Lakers are playing their third game in four nights (all of them on the road) and face a team whose record basically the exact inverse of their own. The Lakers have only won 16 games all season while the Grizzlies have only lost 17. If you were looking to boil this game down to its most simplistic form, these things would be all you need to know. Based off these facts alone, the Lakers are very likely to lose.

The other factors at play — matchups, overall talent, playing at home vs. on the road — those things matter too, of course. But, those things also tilt in the Grizzlies favor and make this thing even more lopsided. So, in reality, there’s not much the Lakers can look to lean on tonight other than, well, hope.

They can hope that Jeremy Lin continues his good play. They can hope that Ed Davis has a “revenge game” in him versus his former team, they can hope that Wayne Ellington gets hot from behind the arc, etc, etc. None of things are even that far fetched. The thing is, even if all those things happen, the Lakers would still be major underdogs.

Where does that leave us? Probably in a place most fans are pretty comfortable in right now — watching the standings and understanding of the fact that losing, while not especially fun in the moment, isn’t the worst thing in the world when it comes to the team’s long term prospects. We say this a lot, of course. And typing the words again is not only repetitive, but it’s tiring and, in someways, overkill as part of the discussion when there are only 20 some-odd games left in the year.

The thing is, it’s still true. Just like it’s true the Lakers are very likely to continue that streak I mentioned at the top.

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

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.