Perhaps it’s now time to simply state what looks more and more obvious as each day passes: the Los Angeles Lakers not only aren’t serious NBA title contenders as currently constructed but might not even be a playoff team.
The Lakers have fallen three games back under .500 after losing all three of their games last week and four of five overall. In those four losses, all four opponents reached triple-digit points and averaged 112.0 points per game. We all knew that L.A. was going to be worse defensively under Mike D’Antoni than it was under Mike Brown, but 112.0 points per game is ridiculous.
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And the news only gets worse: Reports are that Dwight Howard, who clearly isn’t happy in Lakerland (Mavericks are loving this – don’t be surprised if he signs there this offseason), and Kobe Bryant recently getting into an altercation after a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. And Howard is undergoing an MRI on Monday on a shoulder injury. He tied a career-high with 26 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Denver, but his shoulder was wrapped heavily in ice after the game. Howard originally hurt the shoulder in the second half of the Lakers' loss to Clippers on Friday. If he’s out for an extended period, the playoffs are a pipe dream. The Lakers are currently No. 11 in the West and three games out of the No. 8 spot held by Portland.
For sure L.A.’s string of five consecutive Pacific Division titles will end as it is 11 games behind the Clippers, who might not lose 11 more games this season (they are on pace to finish right at 63-19). At BetOnline, the Lakers are +300 to win the division, strangely much better odds than second-place Golden State (+1100). To win the West, the Lakers remain at +400, which is slightly better than the Clippers (+450). The Lakers would have to go 30-19 the rest of the season to win 45 games, which most agree is the minimum needed to get a playoff spot in the deep West. Does anyone really believe this team can win more than 61 percent of its games the rest of the way?
This is shaping up as a potentially rough week for L.A. The Lakers visit Houston for the final time this season Tuesday night; the Rockets won the first home game between these two 107-105 on Dec. 4. L.A. blew a 13-point lead with 10 minutes to go, and Houston’s James Harden and Jeremy Lin combined for just 19 points. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash missed that game for the purple and gold. Then L.A. visits San Antonio for the only time this season on Wednesday.
The Spurs beat the Lakers 84-82 at Staples Center back on Nov. 13. Bernie Bickerstaff was the team’s interim coach then. Los Angeles hosts Oklahoma City on Friday night, and the Thunder beat the Lakers 114-108 in OKC back on Dec. 7. The only game in which L.A. will be favored all week will be Sunday against Cleveland (no early line on the Houston game due to Howard’s uncertain status) The Cavs shocked the Lakers 100-94 in Cleveland on Dec. 11 behind a huge game from Kyrie Irving.
Can Wall Make Wizards Respectable?
The Washington Wizards have been an epic disaster this season at 4-28 overall and just 1-15 on the road. But the team has yet to be whole as former No. 1 overall pick John Wall has yet to play due to an injured knee. However, the former Kentucky star could make his debut this week as he scrimmaged fully with the Wizards over the weekend and ran with the first team. Wall didn’t play Monday against Oklahoma City, but the team is then off until Saturday against Atlanta. That could be when Wall debuts, because you know the team would like to have him do it at home and give Wiz fans something to cheer about in this dreary season. Wall averaged 16.3 points and 8.0 assists per game last season.
After hosting Orlando next Monday, the Wizards go on a five-game West Coast trip. Washington is actually a solid 17-14-1 ATS entering Monday’s game and a surprising 9-6-1 ATS on the road (tied for 8th-most road ATS wins) despite that lone victory.
Last week, I hit on the Knicks beating the Spurs on Thursday night – always bet against San Antonio in one of those four games in five nights scenarios because Gregg Popovich is going to limit his veterans stars’ minutes; neither Tim Duncan, Tony Parker nor Manu Ginobili played more than 24 minutes against New York – and just missed on the Lakers covering the 4.5 points in a 107-102 loss to the Clippers on Friday. This week, I plan to preview Tuesday’s Hawks at Timberwolves matchup, in which I will address Kevin Love’s re-broken hand, as well as Thursday’s Heat-Blazers TNT nightcap game.
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