Note to Pest: Don’t mention Dwight Howard to people from Orlando.
In discussions with the prolific Sports Chump we got onto the Dwight topic. Orlandonions (guess?) have distinct opinions on the guy. And like all discussions about the Lakers recently it eventually turned to playoffs. This is the moment when we get to see inside the mind of a Magic fan.
After discussion of all Dwight’s flaws were presented he seemed to keep his faith D-12. I thought the Lakers were in it till about Christmas. Not so sure anymore, so I explained. The Chump was unwavering. Howard/Kobe/Nash/Pau and the Lakers are too good to miss the playoffs. So he challenged me, using the rituals of the ancient ways (both of us being ancient), to a blog off. I had been served.
Guess who I am? Okay, the Orlando #1 and #2 hated Magic centers ever: who’s #1?
Chump picks the Lakers making it. Here’s what I think.
The problem remaining for the Lakers this season is their schedule. LA has 17 wins with exactly half the season played. They’re in 12’th place but only 5 games behind the Rockets in 8’th.
The problem is the league’s schedule clearly chosen to drive the Lakers off to a large running head start with a plethora of home games. What remains is a gauntlet of road games vs very good teams. They were supposed to win them.
Instead they were spent on injuries, inconsistent play and coaching changes. The Lake Show lost to teams they should be beating for bitter losses. The return was inconsistent defence and a hole to dig out of.
Lets assume you need at least 42 wins to make it in this west. That’s what Golden State got in with when they swept Dallas. But that team was totally changed after a deadline deal. It’s usually higher then 42 and into the 50s but hasn’t been lower since the weird 1999 50 game lockout season. It’s really low. But to reach this mark the Lakers need to finish the season 25-16 which is the pace of a 50 win team. Looks possible but the hole is even deeper.
Over their next 10 games they have 7 road games vs MEM/PHX/MIN/DET/BRK/BOS/CHA/MIA. The home games are the Jazz, OKC, and NOH. The likely result? Being conservative, I don’t see more than .500 over this stretch. That requires sweeping sub-.500 teams and beating a winning team. LAL has had difficulty competing with athletic teams and containing guards. Bad news in a league this loaded with athletic points.
That leaves them with 22 wins and 31 games to get them in. AKA a 55 win pace. On the docket after that trip they play LAC/BOS/POR/ATL/CHI,MEM/GSW/SAS/HOU, quality teams at home and DEN/OKC/ATL/IND/GSW/LAC/POR all good teams on the road. 16 games that are all going to present problems for the Lakers.
Lets pretend they sweep all the other teams. That means they have to go 5-11 just to get to 42 wins. With the chemistry and level of play that actually seems like a challenge. So for each loss to a mediocre team they need to win another game vs the list of good teams above.
If they split with Dallas (home and away) who have Dirk back they have to go 6-10 vs good teams. If Kevin Love comes back in March and has something to prove with Rubio at home. There aren’t many gimme games for LA. These Lakers? They are not going to go 8-8 vs the winning teams above on their own floors.
Dallas is important too with one more win then LA. have not counted themselves out for playoffs. Dirk is just starting to come back to his usual form after injury and they’ve gone 5-1. Their only loss to the Thunder in a thrilling overtime game but it’s clear the Mavs have come out to compete again. Portland, Houston and Utah are sitting in even better position in the conference with significantly more wins and all of them appear worthy of the last spot.
Perhaps a Pau Gasol trade will change the game but it’s hard to think of a player who’s available while capable of solving the Lakers’ issues. Deciding to wait on a Pau trade seems to have backfired. It seemed to make sense before the season started. Unfortunately following through on that plan has almost fell through on a team who’s time has run out.