The Los Angeles Lakers play their first game since March 10, as they begin a slate of three scrimmages at Walt Disney World. While it will be great to see the team on the floor, the exhibition contest against the Dallas Mavericks won’t affect the standings.
When the games begin to count, the Lakers are expected to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference. They currently sit three games back of the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks for the best record in the NBA, but are 5.5 games ahead of the L.A. Clippers.
With the Lakers in a comfortable position, attention will soon shift to the bottom of the conference where Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs are all expected to fight for the final playoff spot.
While teams have been back at practice for a considerable time now, Kyle Kuzma is looking forward to facing an opponent even it there will be rust on both sides.
“Just to get our legs under ourselves and be able to compete,” Kuzma said. “We haven’t played basketball in four months, so you can probably expect a lot of sloppiness, a lot of tired people. I wouldn’t look at the scrimmage as Game 1 or anything. I don’t think guys are going to be in their best shape until the playoffs.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel added that while the atmosphere of the bubble is different than a standard NBA game, he expects teams to adjust rather quickly.
“The whole bubble has been a little different from what we do, but a lot is the same with what we normally do,” Vogel said. “When you’re focused on the process, you settle into the little adjustments you have to make for the bubble environment.
“The staff went over and saw the actual game court for the first time. It’s just unbelievable the lengths that they’ve gone to to create a safe environment, a safe court, and all the things that go into what these games are going to look like. Just commend the league for doing a great job with it. It’ll feel a little different, but I think once the ball goes up, we’ll be locked into what we normally do.”
The Lakers will be without a few key contributors. Avery Bradley opted out of the league’s restart late last month, and Rajon Rondo is still fresh off of surgery to repair a fractured thumb. Markieff Morris, who arrived late in Orlando, has cleared the NBA quarantine period but is not suiting up.
Vogel also said the team will monitor minutes, with James and Davis only playing in the first half. Meanwhile, Alex Caruso was ruled out because of a back contusion.
Los Angeles Lakers (49-14) vs. Dallas Mavericks (40-27)
4:00 P.M. PT, July 23, 2020
Visa Athletic Center, Orlando, Florida
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lebron James
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Anthony Davis
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Dwight Howard, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Dorian Finney-Smith
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Dwight Powell
Key Reserves: Maxi Kleber, Seth Curry, Delon Wright
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