By: Field Level Media
Los Angeles Lakers NBA Bubble Restart Preview
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (49-14), first place, Western Conference
Where are they now: With a 5.5-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference, the Lakers are closing in on clinching the top seed in the playoffs. The Los Angeles teams will highlight the NBA’s return when they face each other July 30.
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Los Angeles Lakers First Half Highlights
As expected, the addition of forward Anthony Davis, in an offseason trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, has been a difference maker as he has formed a formidable partnership with LeBron James. The James-Davis duo has given the Western Conference a clear-cut favorite, with a Lakers-Milwaukee Bucks matchup the most anticipated for the NBA Finals.
Davis says he has fully recovered from a number of nagging injuries to his elbow, ankle, knees, shoulder and backside that he was playing through at various times of the season.
“If anything, our chances got higher and it’s going to be about just who wants it more,” Davis told reporters. “Everybody kind of had a decompression of the season and obviously with stuff going on, but it’s about what team wants it more and which team can stay healthy.”
The Lakers appeared to be getting into playoff mode with victories over the Pelicans, 76ers, Bucks and Clippers before the stoppage of play, although when last seen, they did have a head-scratching defeat to the Brooklyn Nets. Head coach Frank Vogel has touted what he calls a “simple system” as a reason the veteran Lakers should be able to pick up right where they left off when play resumes in Florida.
Los Angeles Lakers NBA Bubble Roster Rundown
After an injury-plagued season in 2018-19, James has looked revived with Davis at his side, scoring 25.7 points per game with 7.9 rebounds. Without so much of the scoring load to carry, James’ game has even evolved to the tune of a career-best 10.6 assists per game. That total leads the NBA.
Davis is thriving with 26.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for his new team, while playing for a legitimate title contender for the first time.
Forward Kyle Kuzma has been forced into an adjusted role upon Davis’ arrival. And while he is third on the Lakers with 12.5 points per game, the total is easily the lowest of his three-year career. His 4.5 rebounds also are the lowest among his three NBA seasons. But he is embracing his opportunity to win a title.
“Guys can go across this league average 20, 25 (points) and just never win,” Kuzma told reporters recently. “I don’t want that. I want a legacy. And to do something that as a kid I’ve always wanted to do.”
The Lakers are not very backcourt dependent, but they will miss a pair of veteran guards when play resumes. Avery Bradley opted out of the NBA’s restart, while Rajon Rondo broke his thumb when the team returned to practice in Florida.
After contemplating an opt-out, backup big man Dwight Howard decided to play.
While two unnamed Lakers players were reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-March, they both were said to be symptom free on March 31.
Los Angeles Lakers NBA Bubble Playoff Outlook
As one of the favorites for the NBA title, all that is left for the Lakers to play for over the final eight regular-season games is a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Three victories would clinch the top spot. The Lakers could be looking at a first-round playoff matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, pitting Davis against his former team. Former Lakers on the Pelicans include Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
Los Angeles Lakers Best Bets: According to Sugarhouse Sportsbook, the Lakers are the favorite to win the NBA title at +240, while the Bucks are second at +250, followed by the Clippers +333 and the Houston Rockets +1200. The Lakers are the favorite to win the Western Conference at +150 over the Clippers (+180).
Sugarhouse also has James as the second favorite to win the MVP at +1000, behind prohibitive favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks (-5000). Davis is the third favorite at +10000.
Sugarhouse has the Lakers as a 1.5-point favorite over the Clippers when the teams face each other upon the resumption of play.
–Field Level Media