Archives For Game Preview

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.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Feb 27, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, FSWI

Line: MIL -6.5, O/U: 193.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (22)
  • 101.7 DRTG (2)
  • 93.9 Pace (14)
  • 72 DRB% (29)
  • 0.544 TS% (8)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Brandon Knight 17.8 ppg
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo 6.6 rpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 8 apg
  • John Henson 1.9 bpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 2 spg

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (20)
  • 111 DRTG (30)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 74.9 DRB% (15)
  • 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

As I have said, I am not particularly fond of “tanking” or rooting for losses or any of the other negative wishes that draft pick protection inspires late in the season. So, it would be my preference to focus on Jordan Clarkson’s improving play, Ed Davis’ continued steadiness, whether Jordan Hill can carry over his good play from Wednesday’s win over the Jazz, or any other number of storylines that genuinely interest me.

I’m not going to lie, though. Those other things matter and, at some point in these last weeks of the season, I will touch on as many of them as I can. But, as it stands today, the thing that matters most is where the Lakers end up in the standings and the likelihood of them keeping their draft pick. Which means, sadly, that losses matter.

This is the conundrum fans are facing now and the battle that, honestly, sucks to play out every night. I mean, I’m quite happy with how well Jordan Clarkson is playing. Similarly, I like watching Jordan Hill or Ed Davis make plays. It’s fun to see Jeremy Lin attack the rim with zero regard for how well the defense may be positioned. But, in watching these guys succeed, the scoreboard also starts to shift in the other direction and the fallout is what happens in the standings.

To be fair, the Lakers are pretty firmly set in the 4th spot right now, between Minnesota and Orlando. But, even with that being the case, the anxiousness persists. A 4th worst record doesn’t guarantee a top 5 pick and as long as the pick is not secured the doubts will remain. Last year these feelings were somewhat there, but not to this level as there was no fear that the Lakers would lose their pick. Sliding down from 5th to 7th seemed like a big deal at the time, but it’s nothing like the prospect of going from a 5th to nothing at all.

I say all this not because I have joined the ranks of rooting for losses, but rather because the anguish of enduring through this type of fandom is something that I wish I weren’t experiencing and something I hope to never experience again. I wish I had something to say about the Bucks in this space, but I really don’t. This is what the season has come to. Honestly, I can’t wait until it’s over and there is some finality to it all.

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

Los Angeles Lakers vs Utah Jazz

Wed Feb 25, 9:00 PM EST – ROOT, TWSN

Line: UTA -10.0, O/U: 192.0

EnergySolutions Arena – Salt Lake City, UT

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (21)
  • 111.1 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75 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 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 105.8 ORTG (15)
  • 107.8 DRTG (24)
  • 90.4 Pace (29)
  • 75.7 DRB% (9)
  • 0.532 TS% (18)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Gordon Hayward 19.6 ppg
  • Derrick Favors 8.2 rpg
  • Trey Burke 4.6 apg
  • Rudy Gobert 2.2 bpg
  • Chris Johnson 1.5 spg

It’s a Celebration! Actually, no, no it’s not.

When your team is bad, these are things, I suppose that come up. If you missed the “news” you are better off than I am, but I will now drag you down with me explain it to you. After beating the Boston Celtics on Sunday, several Lakers’ players — Nick Young, Jordan Hill, and Carlos Boozer, to be specific — celebrated the victory by, essentially, acting a silly and hamming it up for the camera during post game interviews. When the tape of this celebration was showed to Kobe Bryant and, subsequently, Byron Scott, it became an issue as those actions were deemed unprofessional and, gasp!, not the Laker way.

Honestly, I couldn’t really care less about this subject, but, again, when you’re bad, these are the things you end up talking about. My opinion is pretty straight forward: those guys acted a bit over the top, but did so after a game in which they almost lost, came back to win in OT, and against a rival that, before the game, their head coach discussed his strong dislike of (even noting that he wouldn’t coach for them if offered the job). So, this is an opponent the team was expected to get up for, actually won (only their 14th win out of too many to count), and then got a bit out of hand when expressing their happiness about said win. So, while I see both sides of this, I tend to lean towards this being mostly harmless fun by a group of guys who probably haven’t had much fun this season.

Anyways, the Lakers’ celebration will likely end tonight as they face a Jazz team who, the last time they played, beat them fairly easily. In that game Gordan Hayward did his best impersonation of Rick Barry, scoring easily, dishing out dimes, and working the glass well. Hayward showed he was clearly the best player on the floor and led his team to victory handily. Tonight, then, it would be prudent to try and slow down Hayward if the Lakers want to win this game. Only, you know, they really don’t have a person capable of doing so. Unless something dramatic changes, Ryan Kelly will start at SF and, as it’s been when he has played this position in all other games this season, will be ill-suited to defend a quality wing like Hayward. Kelly simply lacks the foot speed and perimeter defensive chops to do much to contain a player of Hayward’s quality.

If the Lakers can’t slow Hayward, their next best bet is to contain the rest of the roster to minimize their impact. That mostly means limiting Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Trey Burke, Dante Exum, and Trevor Booker. With the recent trade of Enes Kanter, that is one less big body who can score to deal with, but his moving on also means more of Gobert, a giant of a man with athleticism and burgeoning feel for how to exploit that on both ends of the court. Gobert’s emergence will make matters hard on the Lakers’ bigs when they try to score inside and test their pick and roll and transition defense when he’s diving to the rim looking for lobs or put back dunks. Combine him with Favors and the perimeter play of Burke and Exum (who, late in his rookie year, is starting to catch on to how to make things happen at this level) and the Lakers are likely to be outgunned.

This is especially true with the Lakers on the road, in Utah — a notoriously hard place to play. The team will need above average play from multiple players, but the only way I see them hanging tough is if Nick Young (Young is not playing) and Jeremy Lin provide a nice push off the bench when they are matched up with the Jazz reserves. I am already counting on the Lakers’ starters struggling to keep pace (the Hayward match up alone swings things their way a large amount), but there is a chance that can be countered by some shotmaking from Young and Lin. If Davis can continue his recent strong play, this may well be a game.

I just don’t count on it.

Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Feb 22, 9:30 PM EST – NBAt, CSNE, TWSN

Line: BOS -3.0, O/U: 202.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104 ORTG (20)
  • 105.7 DRTG (14)
  • 95.9 Pace (4)
  • 74.8 DRB% (16)
  • 0.521 TS% (22)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Jeff Green 17.6 ppg
  • Jared Sullinger 8.1 rpg
  • Rajon Rondo 10.8 apg
  • Kelly Olynyk 0.7 bpg
  • Rajon Rondo 1.7 spg

Ranks

  • 103.9 ORTG (22)
  • 111.4 DRTG (29)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75 DRB% (14)
  • 0.512 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8.1 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

When I wrote about the first time the Lakers played the Celtics back in December, I was fully on board with the idea that the Lakers should do everything they could to win the game. The rivalries between these two organizations would always matter more than ideas about lottery position and draft picks:

If the Lakers want to keep this pick they need to lose a lot of games. The more the better, some would say.

None of that applies tonight, though. No, when the Lakers play the Celtics, I don’t care about the future pick. I don’t care about accelerating a rebuild. I don’t care for your logic. Nope. Not at all. You see, these are the Celtics. I don’t want the Lakers to lose to them. Not today, tomorrow, or next week. Not ever. As I said above, if the only games the Lakers won all season were against the C’s, it would take some of the sting off. This is what a rivalry does.

Of course, when both teams are bad — and the C’s are pretty much equally bad right now — some would say the luster of this rivalry is removed. Yes, these organizations have 33 banners between them but right now they are cellar dwellers. Of all the games on tonight, this is one a lot of fans will actively avoid. Watching Kobe and Rondo is nice and all, but when it’s all said and done a Carlos Boozer/Jared Sullinger duel isn’t something people are using up their Friday night on. Again, I see this perspective. But, again, I do not care. This is appointment viewing for me. This matters.

Let’s be clear – a big part of me still feels this way and will always feel this way whenever these teams play. I don’t care if none of the names associated with the roots of the rivalry are gone. When I see that green jersey with Celtics across the front my mind remembers all the great games, all the disappointments, all the triumphs, and I just want the Lakers to be ahead on the scoreboard when the game is over.

However, we are also at a point in the season where I am nearly tapped out when it comes to how much more I can truly be invested in the actual games. As each day passes, my focus starts to shift more and more to whether the Lakers will be able to keep their draft pick, what prospects will be at the top of the draft, what a viable plan in free agency would actually look like, and how the team can actually start to take positive steps forward in a meaningful way.

And, with the way this roster is constructed, the injuries they have suffered, and the tactics employed by this coach there is only so much of that coming from the product on the floor. While this is frustrating, it is, more than anything else, making it easier to distance myself from the games themselves. I am sure I am not alone here.

The games will go on, though. And, tonight, the Lakers will play the Celtics in a game that means more to those worried about draft picks than to those concerned with how many banners hang in the rafters of Staples Center or the Garden in Boston. Hopefully in the next few seasons, the pendulum will tilt away from the latter end of the spectrum with games that once again keep us invested in the action on the floor.

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

Brooklyn Nets vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Feb 20, 10:30 PM EST – YES, TWSN

Line: BKN -3.0, O/U: 194.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 102.6 ORTG (24)
  • 106.9 DRTG (17)
  • 92 Pace (25)
  • 73.7 DRB% (20)
  • 0.525 TS% (21)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Joe Johnson 15.5 ppg
  • Mason Plumlee 7 rpg
  • Deron Williams 6.1 apg
  • Brook Lopez 1.7 bpg
  • Jarrett Jack 1.1 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (22)
  • 111.2 DRTG (29)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75.1 DRB% (15)
  • 0.512 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

The trade deadline came and went with the Lakers making nary a move. This, though not what some fans would have wanted, was pretty much expected. As I wrote last month, the Lakers’ most likely trade assets (Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, and Jeremy Lin) all had contract issues that may have affected their trade value and, as it always is, other teams must actually want what the Lakers have to offer while also meeting what the Lakers are willing to accept in a deal. As it has been at most trade deadlines, those two things likely did not line up and the Lakers stood pat.

On Friday afternoon, Mitch Kupchak explained that while the Lakers looked into some things, there was nothing really close to happening. I, for one, am okay with that. The Lakers could have tried to go all in on one of the available point guards on the market or tried to dump one of their current players for future draft considerations, but as I noted in the linked to post above that was likely to be complicated by many factors. So, the Lakers will go into the summer with what they have now and will wind down the season with the same roster that has, to this point, been bad (or, depending on your perspective, good) enough to keep them in the hunt of keeping their own draft pick.

So, with 29 games left on the schedule the Lakers will play out the string as is. Tonight, they host the Nets, another team that looked to make some moves but only ended up trading stalwart big man Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota in exchange for Thaddeus Young. The move was a bit of a surprise (KG had to waive his no trade clause for the deal to happen and Thad Young is the better player at this stage of both player’s careers), but so were many of the other moves that saw 37 players shifted across the league before the noon deadline on Thursday.

I’d dive deeper into tonight’s match up, but to be honest I have little to say about this game in general and have a sick child resting on my couch as I type this. In other words, we all have our priorities and this game is just one of several for me (and a bit lower on the totem pole, to boot). I will say, however, that coming off a long break I expect some sloppiness. Byron Scott worked his players hard in their first practices back from the break, but it will take actual game action for the players to find their rhythm and for the flow of the game to start to be natural again. So, expect some sloppier than normal ball at least through the first half and maybe even longer. The Lakers, of course, have an advantage playing at home, but the Nets — even this version — have the edge in talent and in something worthwhile to play for (they are still chasing a playoff spot in the East).

Which of these angles wins out remains to be seen, and I’ll be watching to find out.

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

Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers

Wed Feb 11, 10:00 PM EST – TWSN, KGW

Line: POR -13.5, O/U: 196.0

Moda Center at the Rose Quarter – Portland, OR

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.9 ORTG (22)
  • 111.2 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (10)
  • 75.2 DRB% (11)
  • 0.513 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 107.5 ORTG (11)
  • 102.1 DRTG (3)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75.4 DRB% (9)
  • 0.54 TS% (13)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • LaMarcus Aldridge 23.7 ppg
  • LaMarcus Aldridge 10.3 rpg
  • Damian Lillard 6.3 apg
  • Robin Lopez 1.5 bpg
  • Damian Lillard 1.5 spg

In a way, you have to hand it to the Lakers as they keep finding creative ways to lose. After losing late leads to the Bucks and Magic and then losing in overtime, the Lakers decided to forgo OT altogether against the Nuggets and lose the game by simply surrendering a game they pretty much controlled the entire time in regulation. The Nuggets scored the last nine points of the game and to win by 10 going away.

The star of that game was Ty Lawson (32 points and 16 assists), who the Lakers simply could not contain off the dribble in isolation or out of the pick and roll. This, of course, does not bode well in tonight’s game with Damian Lillard lurking. Lillard has absolutely tormented the Lakers, averaging 36.5 points (on 56.8% shooting, 50% from behind the arc) and six assists in the two previous meetings between these teams. And it’s not like Lillard was gunning for the entire game to get those numbers, either. Most of his damage was actually done on the 4th quarter of both games where he simply blitzed the Lakers, scoring 37 points in only 18 minutes of action over both wins.

So, yes, the Lakers are in trouble tonight. And I’d say that even if Lillard wasn’t going all Beatrix Kiddo on the Crazy 88’s whenever the Lakers are the opponent. Though they went through a rough patch (but still playing over .500 ball) with Robin Lopez out, the Blazers are still one of the best teams in the west and offer a deep, versatile lineup that is simply more talented than the Lakers. If lining up both rosters tonight side by side for a draft, you would likely select six or seven Blazers before even considering taking a Laker.

The fact that the Lakers are playing on the 2nd night of a back to back make things even more challenging. But, if they are to compete tonight, a few things need to happen:

  1. The Lakers’ bigs must control the backboards and limit LaMarcus Aldridge’s effectiveness. LMA can be a deadly jumpshooter and has enough of a post game to be a matchup nightmare. But, if he can be guarded closely and forced into misses, the Lakers have a better shot to win. I expect Robert Sacre to get the first minutes against LMA and hopefully his strength can keep the Blazer off his spots and limit his shot making.
  2. The wings must make shots. The Blazers are a proficient three point shooting team and if the Lakers are going to keep pace they too will need to make some jumpers. The charge will need to be led by Wayne Ellington and a slumping Nick Young, who are both capable of getting hot. Jordan Clarkson will also need to hit a few jumpers — something that will also help his ability to get into the paint.
  3. Carlos Boozer will have to hit his shots. Boozer has been a very nice offensive player since moving to the bench and that will need to continue tonight. If he is hitting his 15 foot jumper, it can help buoy the second unit’s offense.

Of course, even if all these things happen the Lakers are likely to lose. But, those things working out in their favor give them the best chance.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers

Tue Feb 10, 10:30 PM EST – TNT

Line: LAL -1.0, O/U: 201.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 104.1 ORTG (21)
  • 107.9 DRTG (23)
  • 95.9 Pace (3)
  • 75.5 DRB% (8)
  • 0.516 TS% (23)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Ty Lawson 16.6 ppg
  • Kenneth Faried 8.8 rpg
  • Ty Lawson 9.9 apg
  • Jusuf Nurkic 1.3 bpg
  • Ty Lawson 1.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.9 ORTG (22)
  • 111.1 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (10)
  • 75 DRB% (14)
  • 0.514 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

As was mentioned in the comments the other day, Lakers vs. Nuggets might be the worst match up of two teams on a Tuesday night TNT game ever. Expect to hear Charles Barkley complain yet again about having to sit through another Lakers game while all the “Inside the NBA” guys try to talk him off the ledge and find ways to make this game seem appealing. Honestly, I don’t know what can really be said about this specific match up to get you excited.

The Nuggets have lost six games in a row and 13 of their last 14. The Lakers, meanwhile, have lost four games in a row and…13 of their last 14 games. It will be hard to find two teams playing worse combined basketball than these guys and they will show off their respective games to a national TV audience in the late game. Welp.

In saying all that, I would not be surprised if the badness of both these teams cancels each other out and produces some good basketball moments. After all, both teams have some intriguing players that, when they get going, can captivate. Denver’s Ty Lawson is in the top half of the league’s point guards and forwards Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler (long a Laker killer), Danilo Gallinari, and Arron Afflalo can all impact a game. On the Lakers’ side, Jordan Clarkson (who has been playing well), Wayne Ellington, and Nick Young along with big men Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly, and Carlos Boozer all have the ability to do damage in their own ways. These guys from both sides will get many chances tonight to put their stamp on the game and lead their team to a win.

However, if you read that paragraph again, it’s still all a bit sad. Six years ago these teams were battling in the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals.  Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony headlined a match up of two teams who looked like they could contend for the next half decade easily. And now Kobe is on the sideline with his 3rd straight season ending injury and Carmelo is talking about shutting it down after the All-Star game for a Knicks’ team worse than both the Lakers and the Nuggets. How quickly things can change.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Sun Feb 8, 3:30 PM EST – ABC

Line: CLE -13.0, O/U: 196.0

Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, OH

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (22)
  • 110.8 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 74.9 DRB% (15)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 110.3 ORTG (5)
  • 107.4 DRTG (20)
  • 92 Pace (24)
  • 74.2 DRB% (18)
  • 0.547 TS% (7)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • LeBron James 26.1 ppg
  • Kevin Love 10.5 rpg
  • LeBron James 7.4 apg
  • Timofey Mozgov 1.4 bpg
  • J.R. Smith 1.6 spg

After winning a single game to snap a season long nine losing streak three games ago (hi, Bulls), the Lakers have dropped three in a row including their last two in overtime to the Bucks and the Magic. Both those games saw the Lakers lose double digit leads in the 2nd half with late game collapses leading to the other team being able to force the extra period. These are the pitfalls of a bad (and injury filled) roster, a coach who is not above making suspect decisions, and an allowance of young players who have not played meaningful minutes in this league to play through some of their mistakes.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this was hard. On Friday night while the Lakers were finding a way to lose to the Magic, the Warriors and Hawks (sporting the two best records in the league) were playing a great game which also coincided with the Thunder and Pelicans playing a down to wire contest where Anthony Davis’ game winner on a double clutch three pointer was a fitting end to an amazing battle. The Lakers, in their current state, may have an exciting game now and then but no longer participate in meaningful games beyond ones that determine draft positioning.

Said another way, fans are more interested in whether the Lakers lose than any of the other things that should matter in a season like this one. Yes, player development is nice, but don’t let a guy play too well lest it lead to wins that threaten the Lakers’ ability to keep their pick. Byron Scott is messing up? That’s great, we need the losses! Who cares if bad habits or a losing culture are being formed with players who the team may actually like and want to be part of the team when they are theoretically turned around. This is what the team’s current status breeds in fans. Again, this sucks something terrible.

Which leads me to the Cavs game. There are few teams hotter than Cleveland right now. Before losing their last game to the Pacers, the Cavs had won 12 in a row with LeBron James re-establishing himself as the player everyone thought he’d be when he returned “home” to Cleveland. Since taking his two-week sabbatical to do…whatever it was he was doing, he is averaging 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists and leading the Cavs in every way imaginable. With Kyrie Irving also playing phenomenally and Kevin Love chipping in with some very good games in that stretch too, the team is resembling the one who most pundits thought could contend for a championship.

The contrast between the Lakers and the Cavs is as stark as you could imagine. Heading into next weekend’s all-star game, one team will continue to ramp up their efforts to climb the standings to best position themselves for a deep playoff run. The other team will likely continue to lose, explore trades that give them even more flexibility to chase players next summer (and get worse this season in the process), and pretty much be frustrating as hell to watch. Again, I’d be lying if I said this was anything but difficult.

And yes, the Cavs offer some semblance of hope for this Lakers’ team. After LeBron left for Miami, our very own Byron Scott stewarded the Cavs to multiple terrible seasons that ended with the draft picks and talent base that helped lure LeBron back to Miami and swing a trade for Kevin Love. If you’d have told Cavs fans at the time that all their suffering would be rewarded with the team they have now they’d do it again 100 times out of 100. Just don’t let them tell you they enjoyed the process. That would be a lie.

The Lakers and their fans are hoping the same can happen to them. Just don’t tell me to like it while being put through the wringer.

Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on ABC. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.