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Why the Lakers who win West’s top seed actually work against them this NBA record season



Lakers forward LeBron James brings the ball upcourt against the Utah Jazz on Monday in Orlando, Fla. <span class=(Kim Klement / Associated Press)“Src =” https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/6qfkv8ubawMHkNoF9oWP4w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ4My4yMzEzMzQxNDkzMjY4/https://media.zenfs.com/en/la_times_articles_853/b93eee377062206117b5f8f25874fd26 “data src =” https: //s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1
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Lakers forward LeBron James picks up the ball against the Utah Jazz on Monday in Orlando, Fla. (Kim Klement / Associated Press)

Like team logos and corporate ads placed digitally on the courts, not everything in the NBA’s Disney World bubble is always what it seems.

You might think that with games stacked on top of each other all day and no responsibility other than basketball, it would be easy for players to focus.

But according to LeBron James, you would be wrong.

“Nothing has ever compared to this. It’s a huge sacrifice that we all make, says James. “I miss the family, my wife, my children, my mother and so on. It is a huge challenge to be able to hold on to. ”

Almost halfway through the eight seeding games, figuring things out is harder than ever, with outstanding circumstances and small sample sizes covering assessments and predictions.

Usually, the Lakers’ win against Utah on Monday would be reason to celebrate, squeeze the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and force their way to the NBA Finals to probably go through the Staples Center. But these benefits are not in the bubble, where the difference between the home and road teams is which conference room they use in their hotel.

And usually being the top seed in a playoff game meant you had most, if not all, of the benefits. But according to some scouts and managers, the Lakers may be a little tougher than the Clippers, who are fighting Denver for the No. 2 seed.

“I would prefer the second seed,” a Western Conference scout told The Times. “The eighth seed could throw a wrench at someone [plans]”.

The biggest reason is the uncertainty that comes with being a top seed – the only team among the seven best seeds that does not know its first-round opponent when the sowing games are over. When the final playoffs are determined by a play-in tournament if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth seed – and in the West, it’s almost 100% certain – the Lakers may have a slight downside.

“If knowledge is power,” said a chief in the West, “then the No. 2 seed would be more powerful.”

Phoenix Suns' Frank Kaminsky drives against Clippers' Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. <span class=(Kevin C. Cox / Associated Press)“src =” “data-src =” https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xcu7UtlsPysLGjhIkcsRHw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https38411aa2b2a2a2b2a
Phoenix Suns ‘Frank Kaminsky runs against Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox / Associated Press)

It’s a “sprint,” the CEO said, and with things moving so fast and team dynamics changing after the NBA’s long layoffs, every minute focusing on an opponent will count. And while teams have large scouting tables that are used to breaking down more than one team at a time – it happens during every tight playoff race – the compressed nature of the bubble games puts all collateral at a premium.

The Lakers’ pool of potential opponents in the first round probably looks different than they expected, with New Orleans playing unevenly early and Memphis hitting a big blow – star player Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus Monday – which suddenly shakes the Grizzlies’ grip on a place in the play-in tournament.

A scout said he thought Portland would end up playing the Lakers in the first round, although Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs have been fantastic even without LaMarcus Aldridge.

The scout said he was looking at the suddenly healthy Trail Blazers, who added big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, as more like the fifth seed, perhaps the sixth, in the West instead of the eighth. And a team with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Nurkic is probably a scarier matchup than the Grizzlies.

Although the pelicans are growing and grabbing seeds # 8, they are likely to have done so in order to free William Williamson from the protocol restrictions that have cost New Orleans during the first week of the bubble.

The Clippers are not guaranteed an easier path than the Lakers, although Dallas’ late battles (even Tuesday’s overtime win over Sacramento were not without problems) make the Mavericks a little less intimidating than their stellar advanced metrics would suggest. Seed No. 2 is not locked in any way, and if the Clippers fall to No. 3, they could end up in a series with Oklahoma City, another team that has impressed the scouts.

Clipper’s problems are more internal, where the whole version of the team is still more imagined than it actually is. But unlike the Lakers, when it comes to who they play, the Clippers will have a head start. They know who to prepare for while the Lakers wait.

The Lakers do not run from a tough matchup, even rejoice at how good the quality of the game has been in the first week of the started season.

“Guys are ahead of the curve. … guys were not as rusty. You could say that guys worked during the break. I think the level of competition has been fantastic, “said Anthony Davis on Monday. “… It has been good for us and gave us a chance to see where we are.”

Davis should enjoy it now. Come at the end of these eight seeding games, the Lakers will be the only ones who are not really sure of what is coming now.


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