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Atlanta Hawks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Mar 15, 9:30 PM EST – FSSO, TWSN, SPSO

Line: ATL -9.5, O/U: 198.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 109.1 ORTG (6)
  • 102.5 DRTG (6)
  • 93.9 Pace (15)
  • 73.3 DRB% (23)
  • 0.566 TS% (2)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Paul Millsap 16.9 ppg
  • Paul Millsap 7.9 rpg
  • Jeff Teague 7.2 apg
  • Al Horford 1.3 bpg
  • Paul Millsap 1.8 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (22)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 94.3 Pace (11)
  • 75.5 DRB% (10)
  • 0.513 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

It was way back on November 18th that the Lakers played the Hawks the first time this season. It was the team’s 11th and 10th games of the year respectively. The Lakers won that game (and their next one, the following night against the Rockets!) to bring their record to 2-9. Meanwhile, the Hawks fell to 5-5 after the defeat.

I bring all this up because what’s happened since that point is pretty remarkable, at least from the Hawks side. After falling to the Lakers, the Hawks have gone on to win 46 games while only losing 9. Read that again. After dropping a mid-November game to the Lakers, the Hawks essentially turned into a top-two team in the league (right there with the Warriors), dismantling every team that crossed their pass via a clockwork offense and a versatile and malleable defense. They play smart, play as a team, and punish your mistakes on both ends of the floor my making the right play as consistently as any team you’ll watch.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have won 15 more times since that game.  Looking back at this season, those back to back wins against the Hawks and the Rockets may turn out to be the most WTF consecutive days of the team’s campaign. Not much has gone right since that point, that is for sure.

As for tonight, it’s tough to know what the Lakers will play like. In their last game, they came out and laid an impressively large egg against the horrid Knicks. New York came into Staples as the worst team in the league — playing a bunch of guys who you probably never heard of — and controlled the entire contest from nearly start to finish. The Lakers were never able to get over the hump and pretty much just folded their tents in the 2nd half and lost going away. This effort, however, came on the heels of the team playing some solid ball since the all-star break (note, by “solid” I don’t mean “winning”) keeping it close nightly against some pretty strong teams.

In saying that, I do not expect the Lakers to win, but I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure this game would go any specific way. The Hawks are good and smart enough to take advantage of every edge the Lakers give them, burying them in the process. I can envision quick, pointed ball movement leading to open shots at the rim and behind the arc to go along with disciplined defensive rotations that snuff out the Lakers’ attack. I could also envision the Lakers big men matching up well with the Hawks’ front line, Clarkson staying with Teague enough to make his life a little bitter harder, and them hitting enough three pointers and working the offensive glass enough to keep the game close.

Neither would surprise me in the slightest. The Lakers are that strange a team and while the Hawks’ deliberate style and superior talent and coaching will most likely win out in the end, the details that happen over the course of the contest are much less predictable. You’ll just have to watch to find out.

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

New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Thu Mar 12, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, MSG

Line: LAL -6.5, O/U: 188.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 100.7 ORTG (29)
  • 110.4 DRTG (29)
  • 90.8 Pace (28)
  • 73 DRB% (26)
  • 0.509 TS% (28)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Carmelo Anthony 24.2 ppg
  • Amar’e Stoudemire 6.8 rpg
  • Jose Calderon 4.7 apg
  • Louis Amundson 1.3 bpg
  • Iman Shumpert 1.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (21)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75.3 DRB% (12)
  • 0.514 TS% (24)

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

Today’s preview was written by friend of the site and frequent commenter, Ray Diaz. He can be found on twitter at @Radius1238. Give him a follow and enjoy his thoughts on the battle of the basement that is Lakers/Knicks.

The Lakers are coming off their first win after a five game losing streak, a rare win for a team that has the 4th worst record in the league and the worst record since the All-Star Break.  The starting five led the way against the free falling Detroit Pistons with all 5 starters in double figures led by Jordan Hill’s 16 points.  Jeremy Lin added 12 points mostly from the charity stripe and Ed Davis continued his solid play with 13 points on 6-8 shooting.

The Lakers continue to play hard since the All-Star break and this was one of the rare games where the young team did not have a bad stretch in the second half.  Even better, Kobe Bryant was seen giving rookie Jordan Clarkson tips when Jordan went to the bench.  Jordan is basically getting schooled in the game by one of the best scorers ever in Kobe and one of the best point guards ever in Steve Nash.

That is one of the biggest draws to watching Lakers games at this point: the surprising development of Jordan Clarkson as the point guard of the future.  Jordan reached his career high in assists against Detroit highlighted by a leading, thread-the-needle pass to Boozer in the 1st quarter and his backhanded assist to Tarik Black in the 3rd quarter.  Jordan is a nice surprise and has some Lakers fans on twitter asking if we truly need to go after Rondo or another point guard next year (ok, it was just me questioning it, but seriously: do we really want Rondo?).

Lakers are in a rare situation where they are favored over the opposing team.  Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks are the worst team in the league.  With Carmelo Anthony done for the rest of the year, trades of JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, and the buy-out Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks best players are center Andrea Bargnani and recent acquisition Alexey Shved.  Unless Derek Fisher gets his team to play out of their mind to help him win one on his old floor, the Lakers should be able to win against the worst team in the NBA.  The Lakers need to play with the same effort they showed against the Pistons.

So where does this leave fans whom like to watch the team win but understand the reality of the lottery?  The Lakers are currently the fourth worst team in the NBA with 17 wins.  Orlando is fifth with 21 wins.  Sacramento (22), Detroit (23) and Denver (24) are not far behind (or ahead depending on how you see things).   Orlando’s schedule through the end of March is more difficult than the Lakers schedule so a Lakers’ win against the Knicks will be dangerous to their efforts to keep their top 5 pick.

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

Detroit Pistons vs Los Angeles Lakers

Tue Mar 10, 10:30 PM EST – FSDT, TWSN

Line: DET -3.0, O/U: 202.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104.3 ORTG (18)
  • 105.9 DRTG (17)
  • 93.4 Pace (19)
  • 75.6 DRB% (10)
  • 0.511 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Reggie Jackson 17.1 ppg
  • Andre Drummond 13 rpg
  • Reggie Jackson 7.3 apg
  • Andre Drummond 1.8 bpg
  • Josh Smith 1.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (21)
  • 110.5 DRTG (28)
  • 94.4 Pace (11)
  • 75.3 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

The Lakers have lost 5 games in a row, the fourth time they have had a streak that long this season. Further, the team has two additional streaks of four consecutive losses. Add it all up and with only 20 games left in the season, the Lakers have a total of only 16 wins. Over this final stretch, then, the Lakers would have to go 11-9 to match last year’s win total. Call me a cynic, but I do not think they’ll get there.

Their opponent, meanwhile, is another one of those teams like the Lakers just faced on their east coast road trip. The Pistons are not currently a playoff team, but are fighting for the 8th seed with the Nets, Celtics, Heat trio. Detroit is currently 5 games back of the Hornets for that elusive playoff spot, but still have a chance in these last 20 games to get there should (many) things break their way. It is a longshot, but they will go down to the end trying.

Trying to help them down the stretch is recently acquired guard Reggie Jackson. The former Thunder player was sent to Detroit at the deadline in exchange for reserve guard DJ Agustin and small forward Kyle Singler. Jackson had been longing to get out of OKC where he, seemingly, felt he was being scapegoated for some of the team’s issues. OKC obliged knowing that, as a restricted free agent, keeping Jackson was going to be expensive.

Jackson has not been playing particularly great since going to Detroit, but has shown some flashes lately — especially in their last game where he scored 25 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Even with that type of effort, however, his team lost — something that has been a trend since his arrival. After rattling off two straight wins following the trade deadline, the Pistons are losers of six in a row.

Tonight, then, something has to give. As noted above, the Pistons would still like to make a push to close the season to get close to making the playoffs. The Lakers, meanwhile, have been very close to wining some games lately but have faltered down the stretch. If I had to place a wager on which wins out tonight, I’d say the Lakers find a way to hold onto a game and end their streak. But Jackson and the Pistons’ big man duo of Monroe and Drummond will have something to say about that.

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

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.