The Los Angeles Lakers are all-but-guaranteed to be the top seed in the Western Conference after their seeding-round-opening win against the LA Clippers on Thursday night. They could clinch it as soon as today, with either a win in their game against the Toronto Raptors tonight, or a Clippers loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in the earlier game.
At 50-14, the only way the Lakers could let the Clippers (44-21) pass them for the top seed is by losing all of their remaining games, and the Clippers winning all of theirs. Otherwise it is mathematically impossible for the two teams to tie because they have played an uneven number of games (64 for the Lakers compared to 65 for the Clippers, so far) and have the same number of games remaining (seven).
So to make a long story short, the Lakers pretty much have this locked up, as long as they can win just one more game, or at least have the Clippers lose one of theirs. I definitely did not have to ask people in our Slack channel to check my math on that multiple times, and for sure understand how counting works.
The Lakers will get their next chance to ensure they play whoever the eighth seed is in the first round of the playoffs when they take on the Raptors tonight, in what should be an interesting matchup test for the team.
Toronto (46-18) has deal with the loss of Kawhi Leonard and not just survived, but thrived this year. They have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and second-best defense in the league, and their waves of wings and arms should be a good test to see how the new-look Bubble Lakers can deal with a rangy, switchy and versatile defensive team. Pasal Siakam (averaging a team-high 23.6 points per game) has gotten even better as a scorer after already winning Most Improved Player last year, and it will be interesting to see how the Lakers choose to guard a different kind of wing threat.
But other than those things — outside of giving the Lakers a chance to get even with the Raptors in the season series (they lost their first game against them
during a different lifetime in November) and helping this overhauled roster continue to learn to gel together — there isn’t a ton to look for from this one.
Still, checking in on whether Dion Waiters can continue to be a positive Rajon Rondo replacement and if Kyle Kuzma can keep rolling, as well as just the simple fact that we finally have basketball back, makes this one definitely worth tuning in for. Especially since we only have seven games left until the playoffs, and every minute matters for this team as they continue the process of preparing for that challenge.
And hey, they have a chance to finalize their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade coming as the top seed in the West. Who doesn’t want to watch that?
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers’ injury report for this one is the same as it was last game. It seems like everyone is going to be ready to play on the Lakers’ side.
No new injuries for the Lakers on the report after last night's game. Only players listed are Anthony Davis (sore right eye), LeBron James (sore right groin) and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle sprain). All are PROBABLE to play.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 31, 2020
- On the Raptors’ side, Oshae Brissett and Patrick McCaw are doubtful, both with knee soreness
- The Lakers appear set to skip another shootaround this morning, something they’re reportedly doing because their stars don’t want to do them, and they keep kicking ass without the sessions.
- Kyle Kuzma won acclaim for his defense against the Clippers, both from his coach and from the blogosphere as a whole. His scoring and offensive role are certainly worth monitoring and a big part of what make him valuable as he attempts to prove himself with a fresh start on this new stage, but him morphing into a consistent defensive weapon to give the Lakers a bigger player to put on wing scorers would be huge for this team too.
You can watch tonight’s game locally on Spectrum SportsNet at 5:30 p.m. PT, and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN as well.