Archives For Game Preview

Only 9 games left. Nine. The struggle is real. Well, for me it is.

Not just with the losing, either. The Lakers have 15 wins and are unlikely to reach last season’s total of 21. Following a team this bad, for two consecutive seasons, is uncharted territory for Lakers’ fans.

And not just because of Kobe’s pending retirement. Coming to grips with the finality of Kobe’s career isn’t something I’ve been able to truly prepare for. Yes, we’ve known it’s coming for months — even before his announcement, to be honest — but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I don’t write this to ask for pity or sympathy. Rather to simply explain that…well, this is all sort of new and I don’t like it. The losing is one thing. To have it be coupled with Kobe’s final season is something else entirely.

Balancing the emotions of watching the team lose, watching Kobe be unable to do anything about it — and, really, actively contribute to it on some nights — while still having this great sense of appreciation for his career and all he’s done for the franchise is just so strange. All at one time there is this frustration of the current situation, a sense of happiness of seeing him out on the floor playing these final games, and the nostalgia and feelings of reflection which come from looking back on what has been an amazing career.

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After losing to the Nuggets on Friday, the Lakers are back in action today against the Wizards. Friday saw Kobe score 28 on decent efficiency, D’Angelo Russell go down with a sprained ankle (he is doubtful for today), and Julius Randle notch his 1st career triple double. Still, though, it was a loss. The Lakers are now 15-57 on the season, looking less and less likely to even catch last year’s franchise worst total of 21 wins.

The hope is that all this losing translates to the keeping of the team’s top-3 protected draft pick, but we know that’s far from certain. And while it is on fresh on the mind now (especially with March Madness in full swing), it’s also more of a conversation for May when we will know for sure. Fretting today, while a fun barstool discussion, it arguing hypotheticals more than anything else.

These last 10 games, then, are really about the remaining storylines of this year. Which really means it’s about Kobe and the final 10 games of his career. Over these last 10 games, I will post a random highlight clip from the opponent. With today’s game being against Washington, I figured the best clip to show would be when Kobe faced off against Michael Jordan for the last time in Los Angeles when his Airness was a Wizard.

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It is sort of hard to believe, but the final countdown really is upon us. Tonight is game 72 of the season, meaning after the Lakers face the Nuggets there are only 10 games left this year. So we really are nearing the finish line of Kobe Byrant’s career. This will be a topic we discuss more in the final two and half weeks until the final game against the Jazz on April 13th, but the finality of it all is really starting to hit me.

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The Lakers got a rare win against a banged up Grizzlies team playing on the second night of a back to back last night and will try to carry forward some of that momentum against the Suns tonight. This is the same Suns team who handled the Lakers just last week, so even though they, like the Lakers, are a wreck of a team, don’t get any ideas about this game being any sort of a sure thing.

That said, the Suns are down a key cog.

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Let’s get the formalities out of the way first: Kobe Bryant is expected to play tonight, per Byron Scott. He will also travel with the team to Phoenix with the hope of playing in Wednesday’s match up vs. the Suns — his last in Phoenix. This isn’t the first time we have heard in the morning that Kobe would play, only to have that end up not being true. However, considering the days off the Lakers have had and the fact Kobe’s not played since March 13th, I would imagine he gives it a go tonight.

The second “injury” note is that Larry Nance, Jr. will not play tonight. Coming out of the All-Star break and after dealing with a sore knee, Nance was ruled out of back to back games. Rather than sit out the 2nd half of the back to back, Nance will sit out the front end against the Grizzlies and be available on Wednesday against the Suns. The Lakers, then, will be somewhat shorthanded this game, especially on the wing where Nance has been moonlighting of late. This means you should expect to see some Ryan Kelly, if SF must go three players deep (behind Kobe and Metta).

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I won’t pretend to put this game in any other context than what it means — potentially, at least — to the Lakers’ chances of keeping their top 3 protected pick this summer. Let’s face it, we can talk all we want about the development of the Lakers’ young players, Kobe’s retirement tour, or even smaller storylines of Larry Nance playing some SF for the rest of the year.

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Sunday’s loss to the Knicks served as another reminder that regardless of how much in-season progress we have seen from the Lakers’ young players, there will still be down nights. They will not always play well and, when they don’t, you will also get the type of rhetoric which came out of the loss because this team is still coached by Byron Scott.

That means a reminder that minutes are not guaranteed and that the young players have to play hard all the time in order to get playing time. No, you won’t get these same reminders about veteran players because even when they don’t play hard, they don’t need to be reminded about it. They know better, so they’ll do better the next time, I guess.

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After a fun game on Thursday (though in a losing effort) that brought us one last Kobe vs. LeBron duel, the Lakers are back in action against the Knicks on Sunday. This game offers a much more winnable contest — especially with how the Lakers are playing lately. And while we should always be weary of actually projecting a victory, if you look at the trajectory of both teams for the past month or so, it’s not farfetched to think the Lakers come out on top tonight.

This game, at least for me, isn’t so much about the game between these two teams, but rather the games within game stemming from individual match ups and storylines between the two rosters. Kobe Bryant will play tonight, so his battle with Carmelo Anthony will take center stage. Kobe and Melo have long been close, so this last match up between the two before Kobe’s retirement is likely to mean something to both players. If we could get a similar show to the one Kobe and LeBron put on Thursday, we’d all be appreciative.

But this isn’t just about the veteran stars. In the Knicks’ rookie big man Kristaps Porzingis, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle both have a target to aim at this game. For Russell, the challenge of facing another top rookie — especially one who was getting major press early in the year and being hailed as a future star at a time when Russell was not playing as well as he is now — is real. Russell has been playing better than Porzingis has recently, but that’s not matter. Seeing who can come out on top when they face off is one of the stories of this game and one I will be watching closely.

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