With nine wins in their last 12 games, the Los Angeles Lakers — yes, the same Lakers who had 17 wins halfway through the season — have leapfrogged the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed.
If the playoffs started today, the San Antonio Spurs would draw these Lakers in the first round. Los Angeles can still leapfrog to the sixth seed if they can catch Golden State, who are two and half games ahead.
Danny Green, meanwhile, isn't too afraid of the Lakers.
It's worth nothing: The Lakers, if healthy, still pose a difficult matchup for the Spurs. Though the Lakers aren't quite the juggernaut they could have been, San Antonio shouldn't be excited for this potential matchup.
But their recent streak could be in danger. Kobe Bryant, tasked with a third of the Lakers' possessions according to Basketball Reference, sprained his left ankle in last night's loss at Atlanta. The 17-year veteran is out indefinitely though he did not need crutches after the game.
Buoyed by an aggressive Bryant, averaging 30.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and seven assists since beating Boston at Staples, the Lakers scored 105.8 points per game — a smidgen below the third-ranked Denver Nuggets (105.9). Dwight Howard chipped in 17 points and 15 boards a game, too. Steve Nash was an effective, albeit under utilized, offensive fulcrum.
Without Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers will need to manufacture points through the pick-and-roll. Howard and Nash, presumably, will be the lynchpins of the offense. Playing without Kobe is a rarity for Los Angeles and with good reason; while the defense yields a solid 100.9 points per 100 possessions in his absence, according to NBA.com/Stats
, the offense devolves into a less efficient version of the Washington Wizards.
Since Mike D'Antoni is head coach, defense is not a priority. With the Jazz sputtering, losing eight of their last 10, the playoffs are still a realistic preposition even if Bryant is sidelined for a couple of weeks.
But anything more doesn't seem likely. Especially if they play San Antonio, whose offense will disorient an already disoriented defense.
What do you have to say Spurs fans? Do you agree with Green?