Predicting Disney: Los Angeles Lakers
By the time the NBA season was postponed the Lakers were playing some of their best basketball of the season. With consecutive wins over the Pelicans, Sixers, Bucks, and Clippers, LeBron and AD’s team seemed like the heavy favorites to win the title in June.
However, everything changed when the season shut down, and now the team has to try to regain their elite form in the handful of games before the playoffs.
Let’s look at the daunting eight-game schedule for the Lakers:
July 30th vs. LA Clippers - Prediction: Win
This game is a likely preview of the Western Conference Finals; these two Hollywood juggernauts will really want this game to earn the first seed in a stacked Western Conference.
This game can go one of two ways: LeBron, AD, and the rest of the Lakers continue their winning ways against the elite teams in the league. Or Kawhi and the use their depth to overwhelm the Lakers’ new bench players, moving within four games of the No. 1 seed in the West.
Look for Anthony Davis to have his way with the Clippers’ frontcourt. While Davis hasn’t been as dominant against the Clippers this season, he is still a matchup nightmare for that team.
August 1st vs. Toronto Raptors - Prediction: Win
Another game against a tough opponent for LA. Toronto has the depth and versatility needed to give the Lakers trouble, especially if LA isn’t focused.
That said, the Raptors don’t really have an answer for either LeBron James or Anthony Davis. LeBron and AD are simply too good for any Raptor to guard, if you can’t stop the two stars of LA, you won’t have much of a chance.
August 3rd vs. Utah Jazz - Prediction: Win
The Jazz are uniquely suited to slow down the Lakers. They have a great defense anchored by Rudy Gobert, which makes scoring at the rim a real problem.
Still, we don’t know if the Jazz will have enough chemistry to win. Gobert and fellow all-star Donovan Mitchell haven’t been on the best of terms ever since the season ended, the team appears to be hanging on by a thread and with tough games against New Orleans and Oklahoma City before the Laker game it is likely the Jazz go on a skid and their team implodes.
August 5th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Prediction: Loss
This season format is a new frontier for the entire league, and nobody has been in this position before. However, this type of upheaval favors teams that are uber-talented and have a lot of veteran leadership; OKC has both in spades.
Led by Chris Paul, the Thunder will give the Lakers their first bubble loss. After wins over some of the better teams in the league, LA is bound to slip against a lesser opponent, and OKC will pounce on their lack of focus and break the game open.
Another factor is that OKC will still be playing for seeding and the Lakers will have likely clinched the first seed and be looking to ease LeBron’s workload heading into the playoffs.
Look for Dennis Schroder to absolutely dominate the Lakers’ second unit with JR Smith and Dion Waiters being unable to mount a defense.
August 6th vs. the Houston Rockets - Prediction: Loss
The losses will keep coming for the Lakers as a hungry and motivated Houston Rockets team will look to bolster their playoff position and make a statement against one of the premier teams in the league.
The pairing of Harden and Westbrook will be too much for a team who is playing on the second night of a back to back. Expect LA to drop both games in convincing fashion.
August 8th vs. the Indiana Pacers - Prediction: Win
The Lakers will be up against a short-handed Pacers team next, I expect this to be the JR Smith game. He’ll shake off some of the inevitable rust and have a phenomenal game against a Pacers team that will probably be on a skid without the help of Victor Oladipo. By this point it’ll just be another win with LeBron and AD looking toward the playoffs.
August 10th vs. the Denver Nuggets - Prediction: Loss
Denver is a great regular season team, and even better when they have something to play for. The Lakers will play a very motivated Nuggets team who is looking to secure the third seed in the West, this team’s depth will overwhelm LA (a story to watch for the playoffs) and put this one out of the way early.
August 13th vs. the Sacramento Kings - Prediction: Loss
The Kings will most likely be eliminated from playoff contention relatively early in the bubble, so there won’t be anything to play for in this game. However, that’s when teams like the Kings come through and try to get a good win to end the season and show optimism for next season.
Look for De'aaron Fox’s speed to be too much for Alex Caruso and Danny Green, likely a critical factor in this game.