12 April 2007

Should the Lakers Play for 8th?

The Lakers, after losing most of their front line for a chunk of the season, find themselves in the bottom half of the playoff draw (with a very real chance of slipping out of the playoffs entirely).

Denver's been on a tear lately (including two victories over the Lakers) and look to be solidly in control of the 6th seed.

The Lakers, should they hold on and make the playoffs, will either start off against Phoenix, or Dallas.

This Laker team can give either of those teams trouble, if they play perfectly together. Most likely, the Lakers lack the depth to give Dallas much trouble. Phoenix also lacks depth, so the Lakers, despite all their problems, are in a similar spot as they were last year. If they get Phoenix again, they might be able to finish them off, unlike what happened last season.

They were 26-15 at the half-way point this season, and were one of the better teams in the league, having racked up victories against all the top teams. But since, they've been awful more often than they've been good.

Should they hold on to 7th and prevail over the Suns, then that means a second round against San Antonio most likely (Denver looks good, but not beating the Spurs good), and that's a rough assignment for the Lakers.

Even though the first round match-up against Dallas would be difficult, and most likely impossible for the Lakers to overcome, if somehow they get 4 perfect games out of their team, then it would be clear sailing to the rest of the way.

By dropping to 8th, that means if they somehow succeed (improbable, but not impossible given they have #24 on their team), they get a much easier 2nd round opponent in either a struggling Utah team, or an uneven Houston team. They can beat either of those teams over a seven game series, so long as all their players remember to play defense for a full 48 minutes (something that hasn't happened in awhile).

Then they only have the survivor of the San Antonio-Phoenix battle on the other side of the draw to contend with.

If they hold on for 7th, they are 'rewarded' by having to face a likely road of Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas should they advance past each round.

That's a lot rougher road than a likely path of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

But the Lakers have been too inconsistent this season and deserve to fall completely out of the playoffs with the way they've played down the stretch.

Who knows, maybe they'll have that one lucky lottery ball and pick up the #1 pick while they are at it.

With all their players healthy, and a #1, they'd immediately become a top tier team in the league again next season.

But looking at the probable Western Conference match-ups, it kind of sucks to be the top 3 teams. Dallas, despite having a magical regular season, could face a Clipper team that matches up well against them, or a Laker team that can give them all sorts of troubles, or a Golden State team that went 3-0 against Dallas this year. Kind of a crappy reward for having one of the best stretches in the history of major league sports in North America. Getting bounced in the first round isn't out of the question.

Likewise, Phoenix played well, but are capable of losing to any of the likely 7 seeds.

San Antonio at 3 does not match-up well against a Denver team that is finally figuring out how to intergrate Anthony and Iverson into the same offense.

It would be shocking if all three top seeds lose, but it's not out of the question. The teams in the bottom draw are all very talented, but they've been inconsistent. Whichever teams are 6, 7 and 8 in the West just need to get suddenly consistent during the playoffs to ruin great regular seasons by some good teams.

So what I'm really saying is that as always, I expect a Lakers-Clippers Western Conference Finals, and a Lakers Championship, even though both teams are missing key parts (and it seems unlikely they will both make the playoffs).

Speaking of Lakers-Clippers, it's their last match-up until the Conference Finals and it's on TNT, so watch it already, both teams need this victory to solidify their shot at the playoffs, should be a fun one.


bill said...

What's the point of having Kobe score 50 a night if they can't make the playoffs? Couldn't you trade him for 2-3 players that would make them an instant contender?

XWL said...

The Lakers are 6-3 in his 50+ point games this season, and in this Cliippers game were up by 17 points in the 3rd quarter before falling asleep on defense.

As long as the 'supporting cast' doesn't go into sleeper mode, Kobe's performances are a huge positive unlike any other player in the league now, and maybe even in the history of the league.

Only Atlanta is younger as a team, and they are far less successful right now.

Kobe is a Laker for life, Jerry Buss treats him like a son, and they hope that a Kobe-Odom-Bynum team can contend for a championship next year or the year after (Dallas, San Antonio and even Phoenix will be on the downslide due to age by then).

Odom when healthy is a monster, and Bynum has tremendous potential and will hopefully become a consistent player next year (if he played defense and didn't commit stupid fouls, he'd play alot more already).

They have the talent to play with any team already, and proved it earlier in the season.

They'll hold on for a playoff spot and cause some trouble for Dallas or Phoenix.