The Lakers keep on winning — even if it requires them to come from 25 points down on the road against the Hornets (who despite their record have been playing better lately).
But that was only half the equation — the Lakers were always going to need help from one or more of the teams ahead of them. Like from the Golden State Warriors (4 games ahead of Los Angeles), who lost four in a row before turning it around and winning a couple in a row. Or from the Houston Rockets, who have lost three of five and are two games up on the Lakers.
But nobody is helping out like the Utah Jazz, who have dropped five of ix and are now just 1.5 games up on the Lakers.
And when you look at the schedules ahead, the Jazz should be worried.
Utah has 21 games left on their schedule, 11 of them on the road and 12 against current playoff teams. They don’t face the Lakers again — and Utah has the tiebreaker — but they have a tougher schedule from here on out than anyone.
The Lakers have 20 games left split evenly between the road and home, and 10 of them are against current playoff teams. It should be added that the Lakers last seven games are stiffer competition, with five playoff teams on that list. The Lakers want to make up ground now.
It would seem like the Rockets (20 games, 8 on the road and 10 against playoff teams) have an easier path to the postseason. Golden State not only has the largest cushion but also the easiest schedule — 14 of their 20 are at home, with 11 playoff teams in there).
The question of whether any of these teams could beat the Spurs, Thunder or even Clippers is another question entirely (but the answer is no, but none want to work as hard as the Lakers would make them in the first round). But you have to get into the playoffs before we start talking matchups.
The Jazz have been a little unlucky lately (the keep losing close games and they have a positive point differential in their last five despite being 1-4) but they’ve seen their offense dip lately and they need to get it together. Those footsteps are getting very loud and the Lakers have found their stride.
The Warriors decision-making process as a franchise is one of inclusion: A lot of voices in the room, a lot of discussion from different points of view, all ultimately synthesized by GM Bob Myers.
One of the most trusted voices in that room belongs to NBA legend — as a player and a front office mind — Jerry West. He was one of the strong voices against trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love a few years back (in hindsight a move that was central to the kind of team the Warriors became). His deal as a consultant to ownership in Golden State is up after this season, and there were some rumors he could be leaving that role.
Doesn’t sound like it. Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob spoke to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News and made it sound like West will be around for a while.
There is a growing sense that West and the Warriors are headed toward agreeing to extend his relationship with the franchise–Lacob confirmed he and West have spoken about a new contract and have now paused the discussions until after the Finals–but nothing has been finalized….
His contract is up, as you know. We have met; we have discussed the future. And it’s really something that I’m sure at the end of the season we will return to and figure out what Jerry wants to do.
We want him back. We love him. He’s been a great contributor to the organization, someone I consider a personal friend as well. We would love him back (beyond this season), and we’ve made that known.
There had been some buzz about West returning to the Lakers, but with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka now firmly in charge there West’s return to the team where is jersey is in the rafters seems highly unlikely.
Sometime this summer, expect a quiet announcement from the Warriors that the deal got done and West is sticking around. For their management style, he is a great voice to have in the room.
I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.
Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.
Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:
NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.
The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.
Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)
LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.
(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)
It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:
There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.