Lake-a-thon: Part one of our #LakersPick Season Diary

Lakers pick draft rumors Celtics draft Grizzlies

Happy New Year! For part two of our Laker Diary — covering the team’s quest for excellence in 2018 (excellence at providing the Celtics a 2-5 pick) — click here.

Below — in reverse chronology — are our reports on the team’s calendar 2017

Dec. 31: Crushing double-overtime loss for Lakers, 148-142

Dec. 30 – Clippers top Lakers
LAL eke into “top 3” lottery spot

As predicted, December was a cruel month for the Lakers, who lost 121-106 in Staples Friday.

Luke Walton cancelled practice before the game in favor of a team meeting to clear the air; results, uncertain.

The loss left the Lakers, at least for now, in the #3 lottery position.

Let’s not overstate it. The race for a 2-5 pick (which then conveys to the Celtics) is best understood as a 10- to 14-team scrum right around the .300 to .360 winning percentage.

Still, it’s been a good month. One game at a time. Last Laker home win? November 21 against the then-injury-depleted Bulls.

Dec. 28 – Lakers back in “top 5” lotto spot
Key matchup with Clippers Friday

The Clippers will be without Blake Griffin again, but have won six of their last ten, and have slipped into 9th place in the Western Conference. Celtics fans awoke to the good news Thursday morning that the Lakers are right in the mix for that hoped-for #2-#5 draft pick they hope for come summer.

Dec. 27 – Grizzlies end skid with win over Lakers

Memphis entered LA on a back-to-back following a loss to Phoenix, but they left town with a 109-99 win.

Dec. 26 – Lakers fall to Timberwolves

Lakers losses during December can be blamed on all sorts of things. The team’s schedule toughened. Lavar Ball couldn’t stop trolling Luke Walton. It rained a couple of times….

Then again, their impressive 8-10 start came during a stretch of games against sub-.500 teams, many of them best by injuries. And a noticeable lack of back-to-backs.

And the Lakers have four starters who, up until Christmas, had missed a total of three games. (A fifth, Nance, was out for more than 10. But you can argue that Kuzma has been an improvement. And still leaves the LAL with guys like Randall off the bench.)

In short, the Lakers enjoyed better-than-NBA-average luck with early season injuries. Almost all the top NBA teams (Houston, Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio, Golden State, Indiana) have had their best or second-best player out for more than 20 games.

Bottom, line, what the record says the Lakers are is… 11-21. (Hmm, and that’s their actual record too.)

Lakers without Lonzo

Meantime, for an excellent review of what Lonzo Ball is — and what he isn’t — we turn to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz.

(Despite the headline, Arnovitz seems to agree with us that Ball still has a high ceiling, and can be part of a championship team.)

We predicted before the Minnesota game that the Lakers might play better without Lonzo. (It’s tough to judge after one game — Brandon Ingram was out of the lineup too.)

This is not Lonzo hate. We still think he’s going to be a great t-e-a-m player. But it’s arguable that Lonzo’s development this year will cost the current Lakers some wins. The team’s real-plus-minus performance is about 5 points better with Ball off the floor.

December 13 — Lakers fall to Portland (without Lillard)

Good news travels fast, even on twitter. The Lakers lost to Portland, 95-92 Saturday.

The loss moved the Lakers up to #7 in the NBA draft lottery rankings, still facing some tough opponents as LA moves into a more compact schedule over the next six weeks.

Dec. 22 — Lakers (11-19) fall to Steph-less Warriors

Laker Nation seethed with frustration after a close loss to the Warriors Friday night, 113-106. (Golden State was without the services of two-time MVP Steph Curry.)

“Why all the HATE for the Lakers?,” one LAL blog groused, prompting at least one member of the press corps (Matt Moore) to wink:

In fact, the Lakers often look better than their 11-19 record, as they have several times this season against some of the better teams in the league: Houston, Golden State, the Celtics, and the Cavs.

On the other hand, they’ve also played down to their competition, and, as well, have played only 30 games (tied for the least in the NBA). Back-to-backs, here we come.

Some close-but-no-cigar losses against good competition, some equally tight wins over the NBA’s dregs… add it up, and you get… 11-19. (Exactly where the Lakers were after 30 games last season.)

No Steph, no worries

As always, our in-game tweets tell most of the story… Kevin Durant is looking like DPOY competition for Draymond, Anthony Davis, and Paul George. Lonzo Ball was aggressive Lonzo for about half the game, passive for another third.

Of course, the game also featured a major new tremor in the force: Warriors rookie Jordan Bell.

With two stretches of 7 games in 10 nights to come between now and the end of January, the Lakers are by no means out of the woods. Indeed, with the return of Dunn and Mirotic to the Bulls, as Moore observed, “there aren’t a lot of bad teams left.”

Dec. 20: Lakers stun Rockets, remain stuck
in the 10-team, 9-11-win scrum

The Lakers shocked much of the NBA press corps (but not Celtics247) by upending the Rockets in Houston last night 122-116.

(Chris Paul left the game in the third quarter, it should be noted, and did not return.)

The game snapped Houston’s win streak at 15. This left Houston, of course, one victory short of the NBA-best 16 achieved by the Celtics in October-November.

True, it broke some nice momentum the Lakers had going in: 3 straight losses, climbing back towards the “top 5.”

It still leaves the Lakers, however, facing a pair of 7 games in 10 days stretches between now and the end of January, and within clear striking distance of all the words teams in the NBA save (probably) Atlanta.

December 19 update
Up next for Lakers: Rockets

LA faces the Rockets Wednesday night, we’ll have updates tonight at the Celtics247 twitter feed.

The bad news is, the Lakers have played up to (or down to) their competition in recent games. Recent close losses to the Cavaliers and Warriors, and improved play on the road attest to that.

The good news is, whatever happens tomorrow night, the Lakers remain in a cluster of 8-10 teams (depending on your views of some franchises) that are in contention for the critical 2-5 lottery positions.

As we write, nine NBA teams are clustered with 9-11 wins, with the Lakers roughly in the middle at 10-18.

One month ago, we identified the the Nov. 22-Dec. 31 Laker schedule as a critical turning point in the season, and so far, the team hasn’t disappointed. (It was roughly the same time that Colin Cowherd and the most of the LA-enamored pundit class identified the “California stretch” as an opportunity for LA to solidify its position as an above .500 playoff team.)

Since then, the Lakers are 2-8, with games upcoming at Houston and Golden State, followed by home games against Portland and Minnesota.

The month will then end with a critical home game against apparently-tanking 9-21 Memphis (Dec. 27), the Blake-less Clippers (Dec. 29), and a rematch with Houston on New Year’s Eve.

December 7 update: Lakers top 76ers

The Lakers (sorry to say) pulled out an impressive 107-104 win over the 76ers Thursday night — in one of the best NBA games we’ve seen this year.

In so doing, they’ve surged out of the bottom 5 spots in the NBA (about 8 teams in the 7-9 win range.) They’ve still list 7 of 10, though, and are in the mix.

Here are our some of our most indicative in-game reports from the second half… further down for our “Ball in the Family” overview and previous reports.

“Process Interrupted”

Ball in the Family?

With losses by the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, the inactive Lakers dropped out of the NBA’s “top 5” ping-pong ball position list by percentage points and half games.

Still, not to worry.

Lavar Ball has pulled two of his sons out of situations he doesn’t like — and now is making rumbling noises about the mis-coaching of oldest son, Lonzo “Air” Ball.

(Coach Walton has said in the past player minutes and roles are a matter for the “Laker family.” Sadly for him, LA now has “Ball in the Family,” and it’s a fave Boston Celtic fan show.)

We’re not saying Lonzo’s going to follow suit and “drop out” on the Lakers. Indeed, perish the thought. But his on-court demeanor has become more fearful than a Trump cabinet member whose secretary tells him “there’s a call from a Mr. Mueller on line 2.”

Straw in the wind: Colin Cowherd, who weeks ago was projecting a Laker “California schedule surge” and enthusiastically ratcheting up his “LeBronZo Meter,” has fallen silent — and no wonder.

Lakers to Philly

Tonight, the Lakers ride a 5-game losing streak into Philadelphia to take on the 76ers. Hard to say who Celtics fans dislike more, but in this case, on practical grounds, we’ll probably be pulling for Philly.

Follow along on our reverse-chronological diary below as we enjoy the Laker season. The Nets are off the hook. It’s Showtime’s turn.

December 5: Lakers hit bottom 5

As we tweet, Magic, Lonzo, and the Lakers have surged into the NBA’s bottom 5:

December 3 update: Lakers fall to Rockets

Of course, the sun never sets on the Boston sports empire, activating another pingpongBall alert for Celtics fans.

So it was on December 3, then, as the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, losers of four straight, took on the red-hot Houston Rockets.

To be sure, the Lakers bested Houston in Luke Walton’s coaching debut in October, 2016. Celtics fans, of course, were hoping the LALs would do their part for Danny Ainge and that provisional 2018 pick.

Another good night for the ping-pong balls on Sunday. Follow along on some of our reverse-chronology twitter updates from in-game reports below as we savor another loss for the 8-15 Lakers.

Follow our in-game reports here at #pingpongBall (you may have to click on “recent”) — or at @Celts247.

December 2 update
Nuggets bounce Lakers in o.t.

Postgame report — Nuggets top Lakers 115-100 in overtime. Lakers lose 4th straight, and now face a 9-game stretch against 8 (current) playoff teams, plus a game at Charlotte. Next up: the Houston Rockets.

Pregame report — Lonzo “Air” Ball and the Lakers go for their 4th straight loss tonight as they strive to make another thing that Danny Ainge has touched turn to gold.

Right now, the Lakers are stuck in 9th place… not good. The Celtics need a “top”-5 (losing record) finish or better to optimize their chance of a 2018 draft pick conveyance.

But the next 10 Laker games offer hope, as you can see from our twitter feeds on the “ping-pong ball watch.”

November 29 update…

Lakers vs. Warriors tonight meant a four-star ping-pong ball twitter Alert.

Bored with no Celtics game tonight?

Well, it was all okay.

Because, luckily, Danny Ainge provided for our viewing enjoyment by accumulating assets all over the NBA.

Missed it by… that much

Wednesday’s entertainment featured the Lakers losing a heartbreaker to the Golden State Warriors, inching them closer to that favorable draft position we’re all hoping for.

The Lakers pick conveys to the Celtics if it’s 2-5. So far, per Tankathon (below), they’re outside the high-degree of likelihood to get up into one of those slots.

But looking at the Laker schedule over the next 10 games, Magic and his crew appear to have a good shot.

Our best guess: 2-8 in that span, probably looking at a 3- to 4-win December. Don’t worry about the LA hype you’ll hear. And don’t think that the Lakers are terrible long-term. They have a solid young core once it develops.

All Celtics fans have to worry about is this season. And this is looking up.

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Celtics247 staff

Celtics247 staff

Celtics247 staff is composed of fans, journalists, disbarred attorneys, people laid off by ESPN, and other disreputable types who spend too much time watching basketball -- and loving it. If you'd like to join our merry band, you can post a comment, tweet us at @Celts247, or email us (see the contact page.) The only requirement is that you bleed green.
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  1. Pingback: Lakers pick - Celtics trade - NBA draft lottery - Celtics draft

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