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Portland Trail Blazers vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Apr 3, 10:30 PM EST – ESPN, TWSN, CSNW

Line: POR -10.5, O/U: 203.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 108.3 ORTG (7)
  • 103.5 DRTG (9)
  • 94.1 Pace (12)
  • 76.2 DRB% (6)
  • 0.544 TS% (9)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • LaMarcus Aldridge 23.6 ppg
  • LaMarcus Aldridge 10.3 rpg
  • Damian Lillard 6.3 apg
  • Robin Lopez 1.5 bpg
  • Wesley Matthews 1.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (21)
  • 110 DRTG (28)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 75.7 DRB% (10)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8.2 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

The Lakers only have eight remaining games. Of those eight games, they play Portland (tonight), the Clippers (twice), the Mavericks, the Timberwolves, and the Kings (twice). If you are paying attention to the lottery odds — who am I kidding, if you are reading this you are paying attention — the Lakers currently have a 1.5 game “lead” on the Magic for the 4th worst record in the league, boasting two fewer wins and one more loss than their Florida counterparts.

This makes these final games pretty important from the standpoint of the Lakers retaining their pick in the upcoming June draft. Assuming the Magic do not win another game (they play the T’Wolves, Bucks, Bulls, Raptors, Knicks, Heat, and Nets) the Lakers can only win one more game on the season to firmly stay “ahead” in the chase for 4th. If you need a reminder of why 4th is more important than 5th, the odds of the Lakers keeping their pick are roughly 83% if they finish with the 4th worst record. Their odds drop to close to a 50/50 (about 55%) chance if they finish with the 5th worst record. While I have not rooted for losses this year, it would be silly to say this isn’t at least somewhat important.

This will be the backdrop of every single game the Lakers play for the rest of the season. While there were chances to tighten up their odds in games against Philly (two wins) and the Wolves (one win) in recent games, the Lakers did not “help” themselves in the standings by getting W’s. This means watching how Orlando does (their games against the Knicks and T’Wolves should be interesting) will become a pastime for many who root for the Lakers. Anxiety will follow. Trust me.

The games go on, though, and Friday the Blazers visit Staples Center in the hopes of bouncing back after a tough loss against the Clippers on Wednesday. That game saw Chris Paul dominate, scoring 41 points while dishing out 17 assists to only a single turnover. Paul seemed to take the game personally, especially after being showed up by Steph Curry just a night earlier in a fantastic back-and-forth game against the Warriors. This game, then, will give Lillard a chance to do the same as Paul did to him — something he is more ┬áthan capable of doing as he’s proven against the Lakers several times already this year.

Of course, the Lakers have their own up and coming PG who will want to have his own say in how this game goes. In Wednesday’s game against the Pelicans, Jordan Clarkson flirted with a triple-double almost all night, falling only three rebounds short to go with his 18 points and 10 assists (on 83.6% True Shooting, I should add). That led friend of the site Nate Jones to say the following on Twitter:

These types of numbers aren’t that new, however:

Clarkson is now posting a PER of nearly 16 on the season, ranking him 2nd among all rookies. Of course, his individual numbers are not translating to a huge amount of team success — scoring the winning points/baskets against the 76ers and T’Wolves notwithstanding. But his play is encouraging nonetheless. Tonight, he will get to test his game against one of the top PG’s in the league, though if you follow Zach Lowe (and if you watched the aforementioned game against the Clippers) not a very good defensive one.

In any event, this is the match up I’ll be watching. In a way, Lillard offers the model that Clarkson should be looking to follow. As prospects, both came into the league as older rookies who had fairly seasoned and developed games. Lillard, of course, has made the leap to stardom. That leap is not expected of Clarkson, but he has the tools and has shown enough flashes to give fans hope he could make a run at it. That, though, is down the line and this is just a single game in early April. But it’s a fun distraction from the sadness of the first few paragraphs above.

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

New Orleans Pelicans vs Los Angeles Lakers

Wed Apr 1, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, FSNO

Line: NOP -9.5, O/U: 197.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 108 ORTG (8)
  • 107.2 DRTG (23)
  • 91.5 Pace (27)
  • 75.1 DRB% (14)
  • 0.538 TS% (13)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Anthony Davis 24.7 ppg
  • Anthony Davis 10.4 rpg
  • Jrue Holiday 7.1 apg
  • Anthony Davis 2.9 bpg
  • Jrue Holiday 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 103.7 ORTG (22)
  • 109.7 DRTG (28)
  • 94.1 Pace (12)
  • 75.8 DRB% (10)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8.2 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

The Lakers return from their five game road trip winners of two games and losers of three. The two wins were against fellow bottom-feeders in the Timberwolves and 76ers. Those wins surely impacted the team’s lottery odds as it is those two specific teams who reside directly above (or below, depending on how you view all this) the Lakers in the standings. Losses against said teams would have better positioned the Lakers for a greater number of ping pong balls and, with them, better chances of keeping their draft pick this June.

Balanced against that, of course, is how the team won those two games. In both contests Jordan Clarkson was a key difference maker, essentially winning both games by producing the points that created the final margin. Against the Wolves those points came in the form of pressure packed FT’s after drawing a key foul. Against the Sixers, Clarkson made a wonderful cut along the baseline opening himself up for a nice pass from Wayne Ellington in the process. After making the catch, Clarkson finished a layup that won the game.

Clarkson playing well is, of course, excellent news that also has consequences towards the Lakers’ draft considerations. There is no escaping the twisted nature of current experience for Lakers’ fans. With the move towards younger players by the team’s coaching staff, any win the team gets is likely the result of strong play from players like Clarkson, Jabari Brown, and/or Ryan Kelly. This should be cause of encouragement. But every win also moves the team closer to a position where losing their draft pick is more of a possibility. I don’t know of many other experiences that could be worse for a fan than these circumstances.

With that, the games continue tonight against the Pelicans — a team that is still within striking distance of the playoffs. With Anthony Davis playing at a level rarely seen, strong contributions from Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, and the return of Ryan Anderson, this team is dangerous and would love to try and take the next step as an organization by stealing the spot the Thunder have their grips on. This makes them highly favored tonight against a team that, as noted above, we all want to see play well while almost all understanding what playing well could mean.

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

At the time of this writing, the Lakers and 76ers are about to tip off. So, up front, I’d like to apologize for my tardiness in getting up this preview. However, when real life intervenes with my ability to post, I’m just going to chalk it up to priorities being priorities and leave it at that.

Speaking of priorities, if you’re on the outside looking in on this game, one would have to wonder what each team’s priorities really are. As we discussed the last time these two teams faced off, the Lakers would very much like to keep their lottery pick in the upcoming draft this June. The 76ers, meanwhile, would very much like it if the Lakers surrendered that pick since they (and not the Suns) now own it. So, are these teams trying to win this game?

On the Lakers’ side, they will be without Jeremy Lin who, after missing Sunday’s game against the Nets, is still out with an “upper respiratory infection”. Carlos Boozer is able to play tonight, but it’s not yet clear who in the musical chairs of a big man rotation between Boozer, Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Tarik Black, and Robert Sacre will not play. My money is on Davis and Boozer sitting out again, but guessing what Byron Scott will do with his rotations is a fool’s errand.

On Philly’s side, everyone who is able to play likely will as they are okay at losing games all on their own without making any lineup adjustments. We’ll see how much Nerlen’s Noel actually does play, but as their best player in a game that will likely be fairly close throughout, I’d imagine he’ll be pushing 30 minutes.

I wish I had more to say about this game, but, honestly, I don’t. Both teams would be better off losing and, most times that is the case, the result will not be very aesthetically pleasing basketball. So, the fans suffer, you guys reading this suffer, and I, well, I post a preview when a game has already started. Again, sorry about that.

In order to make it up for you, here’s a scene from Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks tells his crew about a “sticky bomb” and how to blow up a tank. In other words, a metaphor for any player who decides he’s going to play well tonight. Enjoy:

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.