I listened to this man, Kurt Rambis, speaking about the Lakers on SportsCenter this afternoon. When he explained what he felt Los Angeles needed to do to make the playoffs, I was kind of confused. When he was talking, he made it seem like there was an incredible and almost insurmountable gap between the Lakers and the eighth spot.
The gap, as we speak, is a game and a half. Mr. Rambis, you’re wrong.
I no longer believe that there is a question in regards to if the Lakers will get into the eighth spot, but when the Lakers will make the move. Will the Lakers stay there? That remains to be seen. But, mark my words, the Lakers will get into the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The next question is, who falls? Well, right now, there are three teams that are somewhat within reach. Golden State is currently in the sixth spot and four games ahead of the Lakers. Right now, I am ruling them out. They are 20-7 at home this season behind one of the best, if not the best, home crowds in all of the association. Even better for the Warriors, they play 14 out of their final 20 games at home. How can Los Angeles compete with that? They can’t.
The next team in sight is the Houston Rockets. Houston is the current holder of the seventh spot in the West and two games ahead of the Lakers. There is a possibility that the Lakers could catch the Rockets. If it were to happen, would I be surprised? No. I don’t see it happening though. First of all, the Rockets are the highest-scoring offense in the NBA. In one season, James Harden has gone from Sixth Man of the Year to superstar in just one year. Chandler Parsons is having a very strong sophomore campaign, scoring 15 points and shooting about 39 percent from beyond the arc and Jeremy Lin is quietly having a solid season, averaging 13 points and six rebounds a game. In addition, Houston is ninth in the league in point differential. Are they better-suited to win a playoff series than the Lakers? Probably not, but they will hold on over the last 19 games.
That leaves one team, the eighth seed, the Utah Jazz. This, to me, seems like the team most likely to falter down the stretch. Over their last 10 games, Utah is just 5-5, losing to teams like Sacramento, Milwaukee and Cleveland in the process. Over the Lakers’ last 10 games, Los Angeles is 7-3. So, in the last 10 games, the Lakers gained two games. In theory, The Lakers will have the lead in the next 10 games. I am going to be a little bit more ambitious though. Kurt Rambis says that the Lakers will need to scratch and claw to get in, but I believe that the Lakers sneak into that eighth spot in the next five games. Here’s each team’s schedule over the next five games:
Utah: @ Chicago, @ NY Knicks, vs. Detroit, @ Oklahoma City, vs. Memphis. My Prediction: 1-4 after five games, 33-34 overall.
Los Angeles: vs. Toronto, vs. Chicago, @ Orlando, @ Atlanta, @ Indiana. My Prediction: 3-2 after five games, 34-33 overall.
The way I see it, Utah only beats Detroit in that rough stretch of games. Los Angeles takes care of Toronto, Orlando and Atlanta and finishes their next five games two games better than Utah. So, I think that Rambis will be surprised to see that in just eight days, the Lakers will have a one game lead over the Jazz in the West.