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 Kings trade with the Pelicans has made DeMarcus Cousins the NBA’s most–discussed player lately.
But Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers isn’t sure he can address Cousins by his nickname.
J.A. Adande of ESPN:
Cool story, Glenn.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Free agent guard Deron Williams has cleared waivers and told the Cleveland Cavaliers he intends to sign with them.
Williams, a five-time All-Star, was waived earlier this week by Dallas. He will give the defending NBA champions a playmaker they’ve needed all season and one LeBron James demanded.
Williams cannot sign with the Cavs until Monday. Cleveland hosts the Milwaukee Bucks that night. The Cavs will be the fourth team for Williams, who is averaging 13.1 points this season.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue can bring him off the bench and also play him with Cleveland’s starters to give James and Kyrie Irving rest before the playoffs.
Kyle Lowry participated in the 3-point contest. He played nearly 18 minutes in the All-Star game.
But when the Raptors played the Celtics in their first game after the break, Lowry never saw the court.
He was sidelined with a right wrist injury suffered in Toronto’s final game before the break.
Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet:
He can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened and didn’t even feel it during the game, but when Lowry woke up the next morning he knew something was up.
“Honestly, I thought I’d slept on it wrong — I thought it would go away,” Lowry said. “It was a little sore, but I paid no attention to it.”
Unconcerned at the time, Lowry didn’t tell anyone but his wife about the wrist pain, and took off for New Orleans where he participated in both the NBA’s three-point contest and all-star game this past weekend. He received some treatment in between his all-star appearances and iced his wrist on and off, but he still saw little cause for alarm.
“I thought over the break it would rest up and heal up,” Lowry said. “But it constantly stayed bothering me.”
“That’s a blow — that’s a huge blow for us,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Friday evening after announcing the injury. “I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. But, no, it’s not a one-day thing.”
This is bad — bad for the Raptors and bad for Lowry’s reputation.
Lowry might have wanted to show his toughness by not running to the doctor for every bump or bruise. But this will also raise questions about whether he prioritized the shine of All-Star Weekend over the grind of Toronto’s season. Lowry is not a trained medical professional, so it’s understandable he misdiagnosed his injury. But he makes his living using his body, and his employer provides trained medical professionals to handle these types of things. Lowry’s bet that his wrist would heal over the break clearly backfired.
And now the Raptors pay the price. They traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to make a push, but that’ll be much tougher without the the team’s best player. Toronto beat Boston without Lowry, but the Raptors are still fourth in the Eastern Conference. Passing the Wizards for third is paramount to avoiding a second-round matchup with the Cavaliers and getting a clearer path back to the conference finals.
Every game matters now for Toronto, and wherever blame falls, Casey nailed the outcome: Lowry’s injury is a huge blow.
The Lakers wouldn’t trade Brandon Ingram for DeMarcus Cousins, because they believe in Ingram (or because they couldn’t get on the same page about a deal, but let’s go with a belief in Ingram).
The Thunder traded for Taj Gibson because he provided, among other things, stellar rim protection.
One of those worked better than the other on this play.