At this point in the season, the schedule is the opponent. The schedule determines who gets a little rest after game 72 and who has to qualify for the Play-In Tournament. Last season, LeBron James was a supporter of the Play-In Tournament because he was in the hotel watching. But now he is its biggest, or should I say, loudest critic knowing he will probably have to play in it.
What James knows is no one in the playoff tournament is a contender so he bristles at the idea of it and him in the same sentence. Being in the tournament has a mathematical reality. You can lose and not even qualify for the playoffs. LeBron attributes his team’s woes to health. But that doesn’t account for these horrible Lakers numbers:
- 24th, offensive rating
- 24th, percentage of points from threes
- 22nd, 3-point %
- 27th, free throw %
- 27th, turnovers
- 23rd, scoring
The Lakers have earned their fate. Injuries are a part of the story but so was the trade that should have happened but did not, (the Kyle Lowry brain freeze). The Lakers prioritized a second-round pick who has developed nicely but Talen Horton-Tucker is a 20-year-old who shoots 25% from three, has an offensive rating of 102, makes 29% of his jump shots, and has the second-most turnovers per minute played on the entire roster (Kyle Kuzma is first).
The situation the Lakers currently find themselves in is unfamiliar, particularly the whining. Before this current regime, Laker players were prideful and kept it to themselves how they really felt when the season took a sharp left turn down a hill. They took it as a challenge and if they lost, they lost. They didn’t make excuses. They were accountable for how it all came undone. They didn’t say people needed to be fired, that someone should have their job ripped away. They understood time and place.
So, who escapes the dreadful entertaining Play-in? The schedule says almost everybody. Even LeBron and Co.
Portland Trailblazers: 5 games left vs possible/probable playoff teams. The Lakers and Spurs at home. The Jazz, Suns, Nuggets on the road. The Blazers are 0-2 vs the Jazz, 0-2 vs. the Suns, 0-2 vs. Denver.
Dallas Mavericks: 4 games left vs. possible/probable playoff teams. Nets, Pelicans at home. Heat, Grizzlies on road. They have a winning or tied record against every opponent on the schedule except the Raptors who they have not beaten.
Los Angeles Lakers: 6 games left vs. possible/probable playoff teams. Suns, Knicks, Pelicans at home. Clippers, Blazers, Pacers on road. The Lakers are 0-2 vs. the Suns, 0-1 vs the Knicks, and 0-2 vs. the Clippers. Point Guard Dennis Schröder is out until the playoffs (Health & Safety Protocol)
Memphis Grizzlies: 5 games left vs possible/probable playoff teams. Pelicans, Mavericks, Kings (2) at home. Warriors on road, last game of the season. Memphis has the worst home record of playoff hopefuls. The Grizz are 0-2 vs the Pelicans, and 0-2 vs the Mavericks.
Golden State Warriors: 5 games left vs possible/probable playoff teams. One road game at the Pelicans. Home games against the Jazz, Suns, Pelicans, and Grizzlies. The only team the Warriors haven’t beaten are the Suns. They have the best home record of any Western Conference team not a top-4 seed.
San Antonio Spurs: 9 games left vs possible/probable playoff teams. Home games vs the Bucks, and two vs the Suns. Road games against the Jazz (2), Kings, Blazers, Nets, and Knicks. The Spurs have the best road record of any Western Conference team not a top-3 seed. But the schedule is brutal. They haven’t beaten the Bucks, Jazz, and Nets.
New Orleans Pelicans: 7 games left vs possible/probable playoff teams. Only two home games. Road games against the Sixers, Hornets, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Warriors. Home game against Warriors and the last game of the season vs the Lakers. The good news is they have beaten all the teams on the schedule except the Warriors and Charlotte.
Sacramento Kings: 5 games left vs possible/probable playoff team. Home games vs Spurs, Jazz. Road games against Pacers, Grizzlies (2). The Kings are 0-3 vs Jazz, Pacers.