Former Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson said the current team needed a ‘come to Jesus’ moment to get their asses in gear, and I’m wondering if this may have arrived in the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss. Since Feb 1st the Lakers have gone 8-3, with 3 straight wins since Dr. Buss’ death after the All-Star break (against solid teams in the Celtics, Blazers, and Mavs no less).
But they’re still at the 9th seed, about 3 games behind the 8th seed Rockets. Over the next week here are Lakers wins and other team losses L.A. needs to get into the 8th or 7th seed (6th or 5th would be fantastic, 4th or higher is impossible):
Mon, Feb 25:
- Lakers @ Nuggets – Need Lakers to win
- Celtics @ Jazz – Need Celtics to win
Tue, Feb 26:
- Warriors @ Pacers – Need Pacers to win
- Bucks @ Mavs – Need Bucks to win
Wed, Feb 27:
- Warriors @ Knicks – Need Knicks to win
- Mavs @ Grizzles – Need Grizzlies to win
- Bucks @ Rockets – Need Bucks to win
- Hawks @ Jazz – Need Hawks to win
- Nuggets @ Blazers – PUSH? (Nuggets win pushes Blazers’ record down, Blazers’ win makes Nuggets’ record worse)
Thu, Feb 28:
- T’Wolves @ Lakers – Need Lakers to win
Fri, Mar 1:
- Rockets @ Magic – Need Magic to win
- Warriors @ Celtics – Need Celtics to win
- Grizzlies @ Heat – Need Heat to win (closes seed records’ gaps slightly)
- Mavs @ Nets – Need Nets to win
- Bobcats @ Jazz – Need Bobcats to win
- Thunder @ Nuggets – Need Thunder to win
Sat, Mar 2:
- Warriors @ 76ers – Need 76ers to win
- T’Wolves @ Blazers – Need T’Wolves to win
Sun, Mar 3:
- Hawks @ Lakers – Lakers need to win
- Grizzlies @ Magic – Magic need to win
- Mavs @ Rockets – PUSH? (Mavs win pushes Rockets’ record down, Rockets’ win makes Mavs’ record worse)
These aren’t ALL the games being played these days, mind you, just the ones that will impact the Lakers. So let’s see how the next week pans out. Meanwhile, if the top 4 teams in the West keep on pace then getting between the 6th and 8th seeds would make for a varied set of challenges for the Lakers:
If the Lakers get the 6th seed, would likely face the Clippers:
- Pros – If you can neutralize CP3 (or he gets hurt) they’re a young, disorganized team. Defense is average at best. While they’ve been a breakout regular season team, and CP3 has turned Blake Griffin into a dunking dynamo, they have yet to handle long-playoff game series like the Lakers have year after year.
- Cons – Bevy of scoring options, CP3 can dish it everywhere AND score on you, they’ll run you out of gas if you play at their pace. If they can’t get inside for Blake’s dunks, DeAndre’s scores, or Chris Paul’s dribble shots they’ll rotate quickly out to perimeter scorers. The Lakers aren’t scoring as well as the Clippers are.
If the Lakers get the 7th seed, would likely face the Thunder:
- Pros – With a healthy Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and facilitating Kobe & Nash, the Lakers can outscore the Thunder inside. The Thunder gave up backup PG Eric Maynor for a trade exception, so they better hope Westbrook can carry more of the game (and not get hurt).
- Cons – The Thunder are younger, faster, more cohesive, have Durant & Westbrook (and even Kevin Martin has replaced James Harden well!). Playing their up-tempo style of offense will exhaust the Lakers quickly.
If the Lakers get the 8th seed, would likely face the Spurs:
- Pros – The Spurs are in the same retirement home as the Lakers, except for a few younger players on both teams. Kobe & Pau are familiar with their outside-in style of play, can help Dwight, Nash, & Clark learn how to neutralize them if they pay attention to their plays. Earl Clark could be the swingman breakout that scores inside while Dwight & Kobe are extra covered.
- Cons – Parker and role players are running a steady game pace, Duncan and others are still playing great defense, both can use their experience and familiarity with each other to outplay the Lakers. If the Spurs can frustrate Howard and double team Kobe they’ll force the rest of the Lakers to carry the scoring load– something that doesn’t look likely.
Even if the Lake Show managed to survive the 1st round, going into the 2nd round and/or the Western Conference Finals against (most likely) the other 1 or 2 teams would be insanely exhausting. And if by some sheer miracle the Lakers somehow (by the grace of God, Jordan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nutella s’mores crepes) made it to the Finals, I could not fathom the Lakers beating the Heat after climbing that ridiculous mountain that is the West.
However… if…. and I seriously mean IF the Lakers DID beat the Heat or anyone else in the Finals…. after the fuck of batshit insane crazy you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me-ness and what-else-could-go-wrong-ness that was the 2012-13 Lakers season….. then I would challenge ALL of you to say Kobe isn’t better than Jordan. MJ NEVER had a season filled with this much drama, bullshit, injuries, losses (owner’s death), team infighting, uncertainty, trade paranoia, media pressure, etc. etc. etc. It would mean 6 rings in 8 Finals appearance…. with this year’s potential one the absolute, all bullshit aside, HARDEST ring to earn. Durant in the West and LeBron out in the East simply add to that legacy of rival difficulty. I’m not saying this WILL happen… but if it did…. it would make this one of the historically most bipolar seasons for an NBA champion Lakers team EVER.