The Los Angeles Lakers have maintained throughout the 2020-21 season that they are ready to play any team when it comes to defending their status as defending NBA champions.
The Lakers were hit just as hard as any other team with injuries throughout the season which forced them down the Western Conference standings. Los Angeles ended their regular season on a high note, winning five consecutive games though they still ended up as the conference’s seventh seed.
Although the Purple and Gold will be in this year’s Play-In Tournament, other teams took notice of their place in the standings and did their best to maneuver out of playing them early in the playoffs. Jared Dudley took notice and gave his take on the matter as well as the challenge ahead of the Lakers.
“It would be the hardest challenge in NBA history and the reason why I say that is you’re going to first Play-In Game. I know the [Golden State] Warriors aren’t the Warriors of old, but you still have Steph Curry an all-time great and when I mean all-time great he’ll eventually go down as top 10 all time. Someone that could just change the game. Draymond Green, Hall of Famer. It’s not going to be easy and if you can somehow get past that, you play a two seed then you got to play a three seed,” Dudley said after returning to action on Sunday night against the Pelicans.
“I do think it was funny you see a lot of teams as you would say managing their last couple games to try to avoid us and stuff like that. It’s funny to see that, but for us it’s going to be a challenge in whatever team you play. Between [Nikola] Jokic, the [Los Angeles] Clippers. Obviously, Chris Paul. We’re up for it. We’re the defending champs. They’ve got to worry about us. We’re getting healthy at the right time and nobody wants to see a healthy Laker team.”
The reverse tanking for seeding is comical, to say the least, but Dudley did recognize the strategy involved for some teams hoping to advance farther in the playoffs by avoiding the Lakers.
“Every person has their own opinion. I personally I’m obviously a T-Lue guy. You would’ve hated to play their guys going for the three seed and either Kawhi [Leonard] or Paul George or one of the main guys have an injury and just because you’re trying to move up to the three where let’s be honest it’s not really a big home-court advantage or a huge home-court advantage right now. I think the only team really is Utah that has like 12,000, so they’re actually the only team. I think we’re at only like 45-50 percent capacity.
“I mean, some people are avoiding. I would say for Denver. It’s smart by Denver. For Denver to win this game to be able to play Portland instead of us. You don’t want to play the defending champs. Let’s just be honest. It’s not avoiding. You want to wait and play the best team later on. Give yourself the best possible chance. Maybe they lose, maybe they don’t. I don’t call it avoiding. I call it good strategy.”
Dudley later went on to recognize that it may actually be better for teams to play the Lakers early and he has a point that they are still rounding into form and that playing them in an earlier round would likely be a team’s best shot of beating them in a series.
For Los Angeles, even though they have looked great in their past few games they will inevitably have moments in the postseason where it is clear they are not quite on the same page.
Despite the lack of continuity or chemistry, the road to the 2021 NBA Championship still runs through the Lakers and it will be exciting to see whether or not they can repeat in what should be a thrilling playoffs.
NBA gets wish for Lakers-Warriors Play-In Tournament
The NBA could not have hoped for a better Play-In Tournament scenario as they will get two of its marquee teams playing against each other. The Play-In Tournament was introduced as a way to shake up the playoff race as well as bring in more revenue, and the league has to be thrilled with how things played out.
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