Heading into March with a 4.5 game lead over the competition, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking to wrap up No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Later tonight, they host the Philadelphia 76’ers and begin a stretch of six straight games at Staple Center over 12 days (one of the games being a road affair against the Los Angeles Clippers).
The Lakers went 9-2 in February in what might have been the easiest month of the season for them schedule-wise. March will certainly be more difficult, beginning with games against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, a nationally televised afternoon game against the Clippers on Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Houston Rockets who were the last team to beat them at home back on February 6th.
Last month LeBron James insisted that while the Lakers love playing in front of Lakers Nation and their home town fans, they are not thinking about potential playoff seeding.
“We don’t talk about it. At the end of the day I think every Western Conference team that will make the playoffs can win on someone else’s floor,” James said. “For us, we would love to play in front of our home fans as much as we can. We love being there with our Laker faithful. But at the end of the day, you go out and play each and every game like it’s its own game. You can’t worry about what could happen the following day. You can only live in the present.”
Either way, a good run to begin the month could put the Lakers on top of the Western Conference for good. And if they get through the NBA version of 2020 March Madness, they could well be on their way to their 17th NBA Championship in June.
Looking Back: Anthony Davis Trade A Big Win-Win
It was little over a year ago that Anthony Davis made it clear he wanted a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans to a team he thought would compete for a title. While that didn’t happen at the 2019 trade deadline, the off-season saw Davis traded to Los Angeles. The Pelicans got a massive haul in return. The Lakers sent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, a conditional first-round pick in either 2021 or 2022, and two unprotected pick swaps in 2023 and 2024, the second swap being one that the Pelicans could opt to defer to 2025.
Today Davis is in a co-starring role alongside LeBron James and Los Angeles sits atop the Western Conference in March for the first time since the strike-shortened 2011-12 NBA season. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have managed to re-build overnight. While on the outside looking in, New Orleans is in the hunt for a playoff birth this season, and with Zion Williamson could be a force for years to come.
The Pelicans wanted the best possible return for Davis, even if trade partners seemed to be shrinking by the minute last spring. They got that in spades and young players like Ball, Ingram, and Hart got chances to play big minutes and at critical points of games. Davis gets a chance to compete for a championship, something he has been able to do this season.
Looking Further Back: LeBron James Scores Career High
It was 5-years ago that James put on the best scoring show of his NBA career. Playing for the Miami Heat, James dropped 61 points and set a Heat single-game franchise scoring record en route to a 124-107 win against the Charlotte Bobcats. James made 22 of 33 shots from the field in that Monday night game in Florida, including his first eight 3-point attempts. He also went 9 of 12 from the free-throw line, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out five assists.
Looking Forward: The Unlikely Sacramento Kings Playoff Push
The Kings were 12-22 heading into 2020, but are a respectable 14-12 since January 1st and have won six of their last seven games. They are currently just three games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and a half-game better than the Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs. If they continue to play well, they may end up being the Laker’s first-round opponents in the playoffs. The Lakers have not played the Kings in the postseason since 2002.