Has anyone figured out these Lakers?
Last year’s Lakers had the swagger and game of a champion from the start (despite some in-season lapses). These Lakers are much harder to figure out — they beat the Celtics in Boston, but lose to the Cavaliers. Pau Gasol is Black Swan and White Swan. Andrew Bynum’s focus is spotty.
Sure, Los Angeles playing well since the All-Star break, but does even Jack Nicholson have confidence they will carry this through to the playoffs?
As for what Phil Jackson thinks of this team… ask him again in a week after this four-game road trip.
The Lakers start Sunday in San Antonio against the best team in the NBA (just ask the Heat). Then the trip goes to Atlanta, Miami and Dallas. Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles this trip will define his team.
“This trip is really like a make-or-break point of the season for us,” Jackson said before the Bobcats game. “If we play really well on this road trip, we have a chance to do things. If we don’t, we’ll settle in and assume that we’re fighting for either second or third place, hopefully.”
This is Jackson playing his motivation mind games with the Lakers. He’s not even being subtle about it. This is the push to the playoffs, and they need these wins to move up out of third in the West and fourth overall in the league (with the Bulls and Heat just half a game back of them). It’s about home court in the playoffs, and he needs his team to be focused now. They can catch Dallas and Boston (2.5 games back) and have maybe the second best record heading into the playoffs. (They will not make up the 7.5 games they are behind the Spurs.)
This is a real test for the Lakers, we will learn something. Maybe they have found their stride. If not, the questions about them beating the Spurs or any contender out of the East become a lot harder to answer.
Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.
Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.
The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.
That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.
Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.
Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.
The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.
The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.
It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.
Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.
The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.
Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).
Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.
If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.
Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).
With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.
Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.
Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.
The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.