Minnesota Timberwolves vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Apr 10, 10:30 PM EST – NBAt, FSN, TWSN

Line: LAL -5.5, O/U: 203.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 102.7 ORTG (26)
  • 111.7 DRTG (30)
  • 94.4 Pace (11)
  • 71.8 DRB% (30)
  • 0.516 TS% (24)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kevin Martin 20.3 ppg
  • Gorgui Dieng 8.3 rpg
  • Ricky Rubio 8.8 apg
  • Gorgui Dieng 1.7 bpg
  • Corey Brewer 2.3 spg

Ranks

  • 103.4 ORTG (24)
  • 110.4 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 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 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good news. There is no longer any fear of the Lakers finishing the season with the 5th worst record in the league and, in the process, dropping their lottery odds to only a 55% chance of retaining their pick. With only four games left in the season, the Lakers have five fewer wins than the Orlando Magic, leaving them with no shot of “catching” them in the standings. As we’ve said multiple times, finishing with the 4th worst record gives the Lakers an 83% chance of keeping their pick. So, that brings some relief.

The bad news, however, is that an 83% chance is not a 100% chance and isn’t even the 96% they would have had if they’d finished with the 3rd worst record. Further, they have almost no chance of catching the 76ers for that 3rd worst record since that team faces three teams angling for playoff positioning while the Lakers only play one such game of their remaining four (against the Mavs).

More bad news is that the Lakers actually play four more games. That might sound harsh, but the reality is that, at this stage, there is little meaning in any of these contests. Add to this that it is unlikely we see high quality basketball, and the viewing experience is not what I’d call “must watch”. That leaves a team playing out the string against, mostly, other teams playing out the string. Not very inspiring stuff. It used to be that this time of the year brought anticipation and eagerness to start the playoffs and get into the part of the year when the stakes and level of play rise exponentially. For the Lakers, these are not those days. I miss those days.

Tonight, then, get ready for a barn burner between the Lakers and the Wolves. Jeremy Lin will sit out with a sore knee, putting Jabari Brown into the starting lineup. That brings me to this:

And this:

And this:

Hey, if you can’t enjoy a good joke at this time of year under these circumstances. I feel for you. Maybe this game will be as enjoyable. At least we get Jordan Clarkson and Andrew Wiggins (can you believe I just typed that) facing off as a battle of likely all-rookie 1st team members (with Wiggins likely winning the Rookie of the Year). Hopefully both can have a big night. If previous match ups between these teams hold, though, odds are that Zach LaVine outdoes both of them. The former UCLA Bruin seems to get up to play the Lakers.

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

Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets

Wed Apr 8, 9:00 PM EST – ALT, TWSN

Line: DEN -10.0, O/U: 205.5

Pepsi Center – Denver, CO

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.3 ORTG (24)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 DRB% (9)
  • 0.512 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)
  • 107.7 DRTG (24)
  • 95.9 Pace (4)
  • 74.6 DRB% (16)
  • 0.514 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Ty Lawson 15.4 ppg
  • Kenneth Faried 8.8 rpg
  • Ty Lawson 9.5 apg
  • Jusuf Nurkic 1.2 bpg
  • Ty Lawson 1.3 spg

What can really be said about this game? The Lakers only have a handful of games left and if there is anyone watching for reasons that extend beyond how it affects the lottery odds or for Jordan Clarkson’s growth as a potential point guard of the future, you’re probably either lying or so hard core about your Lakers that the term needle in a haystack probably applies to your ability to search for and find things.

When looking at the game through the prism that most fans view it, you’re in luck. Today’s contest is the Lakers’ 3rd game in four nights and the second night of a back to back. Further, it’s the dreaded flying east to Denver portion of the second night of a back to back where the team did not finish a game until after 10pm PST and then getting to Denver late night/early morning and then driving the long distance from their outskirts airport to their downtown hotel. Even in the best of times these circumstances represented a “schedule loss”. Now that these are the worst of times with an overmatched-on-most-nights team riding out the stretch of a miserable season, well, you get the picture.

In terms of Clarkson’s play, he’s coming off a very nice bounce back game against the wily Chris Paul and the aggressive defensive tactics of the Clippers. On Sunday Clarkson has one of his worst games of the year, but on Tuesday night he recovered well with a 20 point scoring night to go along with a handful of assists and rebounds. Showing that type of growth in his game and showing that he could learn from errors just a couple nights earlier speaks well to his acumen and willingness to learn. Tonight, then, he looks to carry that forward against the Nuggets and another good point guard in Ty Lawson.

Lawson may not have Clarkson’s size, but he matches the rookie’s quickness in the open court and in ability to get to the rim from any part of the floor. Clarkson will be tested defensively by Lawson’s exploits and, with Lawson’s quickness and ability to stay with other quick guards defensively, there will be challenges on the other end as well. In other words, it’s another good measuring stick match up for the young PG who seems to keep stepping up to those challenges. Here’s hoping he can do so again.

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

Los Angeles Lakers vs Los Angeles Clippers

Tue Apr 7, 10:30 PM EST – TNT

Line: LAC -17.0, O/U: 204.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.3 ORTG (24)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 93.8 Pace (14)
  • 75.9 DRB% (9)
  • 0.512 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

  • 112.5 ORTG (1)
  • 105.6 DRTG (16)
  • 94.7 Pace (10)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.566 TS% (2)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Blake Griffin 21.9 ppg
  • DeAndre Jordan 14.8 rpg
  • Chris Paul 10.2 apg
  • DeAndre Jordan 2.2 bpg
  • Chris Paul 1.9 spg

Didn’t we just do this? Yes. Yes, we did.

Well, actually, the Clippers did it. The Lakers were more witnesses (victims, actually) to the act in question. On Sunday, the Clippers used the Lakers as a speedbump, rolling over them quite easily in a 106-78 thrashing that wasn’t even that close. At points of the game the Lakers were down by 41, so a 28 point final margin doesn’t even do the whipping justice.

Apparently, even after that game, there was no way to get this game off the national stage, though. Tonight’s rematch will be aired on TNT, allowing those all across the country to change the channel to something else. Or, you know, tune in and watch the Lakers try to keep pace with a clearly superior team. To make matters worse, Jamal Crawford is expected to return to action tonight after dealing with a calf injury. Considering how anemic the Clips’ bench has been this season, Crawford’s return should be a nice boost.

Not that they will need it tonight. Normally after the type of beating the Lakers took the last game, I’d say they would be extra motivated to provide a better performance tonight. I can still say the motivation will be there, I just do not think it will help much. The Lakers just don’t match up that well with this version of the Clips.

They don’t have anyone to guard Blake Griffin nor DeAndre Jordan. Clarkson has the size and quickness to stay somewhat connected to Chris Paul, but with the P&R heavy attack the Clips use Clarkson’s physical tools are sapped dealing with constant picks and chips coming from the Clippers’ big men. Further, those P&R’s test the Lakers’ help and recovery defense, which has been a particularly poor part of their showing on that end all season. Add in JJ Redick’s shooting and Matt Barnes’ ability to seemingly always be hot against the Lakers, the Clips simply possess too much offense for the Lakers’ defense to manage effectively over the course of a full game.

With that said, I do want to see how Jordan Clarkson fares in this game. The rook performed especially poorly on Sunday, managing only two points on 1-6 shooting with three assists to two turnovers. The Clippers showed him more aggressive hedges and sideline traps out of the P&R, flustering him in the process. After the game he called it his worst game of the year. Tonight, then, I’d expect the Clips to employ a similar strategy until Clarkson shows he can handle it.

From a strategic standpoint, I hope to see Clarkson string out his dribble more in the hopes of drawing the 2nd defender further out on the court. When that happens, it would also be nice to see the dive man roll hard with the weak side big flashing into the space behind him as a release valve. If Clarkson could either hit the roll man or the man cutting into that vacated space it would allow the Lakers to play four on three with the ball in the middle of the floor. Certainly an advantage for the offense. Whether Byron goes this route schematically is up in the air, but is a tactic worth exploring.

Beyond that, though, I’ve got little for you. Hopefully, the final margin isn’t as bad as Sunday.

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

Los Angeles Clippers vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Apr 5, 9:30 PM EST – NBAt, PT, TWSN

Line: LAC -11.5, O/U: 211.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 112.4 ORTG (1)
  • 105.9 DRTG (16)
  • 94.8 Pace (10)
  • 76.2 DRB% (6)
  • 0.566 TS% (2)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Blake Griffin 22.2 ppg
  • DeAndre Jordan 14.8 rpg
  • Chris Paul 10.2 apg
  • DeAndre Jordan 2.2 bpg
  • Chris Paul 1.9 spg

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (23)
  • 110.1 DRTG (28)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 75.9 DRB% (9)
  • 0.513 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8.1 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

In the lead up to the Lakers’ Friday night game against the Blazers, most of the conversation was focused on the team’s last eight games and how those contests related to the standings and the team’s ability to hold onto their own draft pick come June. Tangentially, then, the discussion was also about the Orlando Magic who were only behind the Lakers by 1.5 games for the 4th worst record in the league.

Since Friday, though, the Magic have won two straight games and, with the Lakers’ loss to the Blazers on Friday, the difference between Los Angeles and Orlando has swelled to a three game difference with the Magic now possessing four more wins and two fewer losses. With the Magic only having five games left on their schedule and the Lakers only having seven, there would need to be a dramatic shift in the final two weeks of the season for the Lakers to not end up with the 4th worst record. Considering the Knicks are one of the teams left on the Magic’s docket, things are even more likely to end that way.

That brings us to today where the Lakers face the Clippers in the first game of a home and home (where both games will, of course, be at the Staples Center) between the teams. In theory, the Lakers could help themselves draft wise by winning this game as it would put the Clippers in position to surrender the 2nd round pick they owe the Lakers. They would be forced to surrender their 2nd round pick in this year’s draft if it falls between #51-55, which would be more likely if the Lakers actually win this game.

The Lakers would also likely want to win just because the Clips have owned the Lakers over the last couple of seasons and, while this isn’t a rivalry in the traditional way, these teams both want to beat each other every time  they face off — and a bit more than in other games. And while that’s unlikely from the Lakers’ side today, don’t put it past them to put out their best effort and try to get a W against a team they surely dislike.

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

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  than 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.