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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.

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.