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Los Angeles Lakers Lightning Preview

Where Things Stood: When the NBA season was put on pause in March, the Los Angeles Lakers led the Western Conference with a record of 49-14. Led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers hold a 5.5 game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Clippers. With the first seed basically guaranteed, the Lakers will most likely face the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) if the Portland Trailblazers (29-37) or New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) can’t overcome their 3.5 game deficit over these last eight games.

What’s Coming Up: This may be the best opportunity LeBron will have for the rest of his career to win a championship with the Golden State Warriors “taking the season off.” Winning the first seed in the West will be a lot harder in the future with the normal Warriors squad. The only challenge for the Lakers getting to the Finals this year will be a matchup against Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers who are second in the West with a 44-20 record. Barring an upset, the Lakers are most likely to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals, who lead the NBA with a record of 53-12. 

Game 1: Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi beat the Lakers on opening night back in October but split their other two matchups this season. The Lakers won their most recent game against the Clippers in March a few days before the season was paused. Kawhi and Paul George are averaging a combined 48 points a night and are the closest team in the West to rival the Lakers’ talent. LeBron and AD will have their work cut out for them in an eventual playoffs matchup. The Battle For LA is approaching its exciting conclusion.

Game 2: Toronto Raptors – Will the Lakers face the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals? If not the Bucks, certainly the Raptors can sneak in there with the second-best record in the East. The Raptors have a record of 46-18 and are 6.5 games behind the Bucks. Pascal Siakam has seamlessly turned into one of the best players in the NBA and is the biggest reason why the Raptors didn’t implode after losing Kawhi. The Raptors have five players averaging 16 points a game or more and beat the Lakers in their only matchup all the way back in November.

Game 3: Utah Jazz – The Jazz have had an excellent season, sitting at fourth place in the West with a record of 41-23. The Jazz lost both of their two matchups against the Lakers this season. The Lakers should have no problem winning this matchup. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert do not have much help after them as Bojan Bogdanović is out for the season with a wrist injury. Bogdanović was second on the Jazz in scoring averaging 20.2 points.

Game 4: Oklahoma City Thunder – After trading Paul George, Thunder. GM Sam Presti kept the Thunder a very good team. Their core of Shai Gilgous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schröder, and Chris Paul is an awkward grouping yet very effective. Gilgeous-Alexander is looking like a superstar in the making. Yet, the fifth seed Thunder are tied with the sixth seed Houston Rockets with a record of 42-24. The Lakers, however, are 3-0 against the Thunder this season, giving the Lakers the clear advantage here.

Game 5: Houston Rockets – Speaking of the Rockets, Russell Westbrook testing positive for COVID-19 could hurt the team in the short term (feel better Russell). If Westbrook isn’t in this game, the Lakers have the advantage. James Harden is going to average 40 points these eight games, but Houston would probably lose this game by himself. To the Rocket’s credit, they split their two games against the Lakers this season.

Game 6: Indiana Pacers – Domantas Sabonis has firmly established himself as a really good NBA player, averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. But, Sabonis has left the bubble with a significant foot injury and his status for the season is up in the air. The Pacers are 39-26 and fifth in the East. Indiana BEAT the Lakers in their only matchup this season. If Victor Oladipo plays, he along with Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and TJ Warren is a good NBA team. The Pacers’ defense is excellent and could maybe be a threat to Los Angeles, but without Sabonis, Indiana might not have such an easy time. The Lakers will probably win this game.

Game 7: Denver Nuggets – What more could be said about Nikola Jockić? The center averages 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.9 (!!!) assists. Nobody in the NBA with that many rebounds has that many assists. Jokić, Jamal Murray, and a deep bench have propelled Denver to third in the West with a record of 43-22. The Lakers lead the series against the Nuggets this season 2-1. Expect a good matchup.

Game 8- Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley III is out for the season with a foot sprain and the 28-36 Kings are just going to be no match against the Lakers. Los Angeles won their only matchup against the Kings this season. The Kings have good players on their roster but they just aren’t going to be a playoff team.

Prediction: The Lakers have to win the NBA Finals this season. HAVE TO. Anthony Davis wants to test free agency which does not guarantee his return to Los Angeles. Winning the Finals may give Davis more of a reason to return to the Lakers. The two teams that stand in LeBron’s way of a Finals championship are the Clippers and Bucks. Nobody would complain about a Finals matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron. That would be a lot of fun. The performance of the Lakers this season is surely what LeBron had in mind when he signed with Los Angeles two years ago. We can’t forget LeBron is the man who went to eight straight NBA Finals. He knows what he’s doing.

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For more thoughts and opinions from Zachary Diamond, check out his author-page or Twitter.

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