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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lakers Clinch West's Seventh Seed, Pelicans Will Host Kings to Determine West's Eighth Seed

The L.A. Lakers built an 18 point third quarter lead before surviving a furious New Orleans comeback to defeat the Pelicans 110-106 in the first game of the 2024 Play-In Tournament and secure the seventh seed in the Western Conference. LeBron James led the Lakers in scoring (23 points) and assists (nine) while also grabbing nine rebounds, swiping three steals, and blocking two shots, but he shot just 6-20 from the field, including 1-5 from three point range. It will be interesting to see if his poor shooting is an aberration, or if James is wearing down after playing more games (71) and logging more minutes (2504) than he has in any season since 2017-18. D'Angelo Russell scored 21 points and had a game-best +16 plus/minus number. Anthony Davis added 20 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. After the game, Lakers coach Darvin Ham mocked what he called the "insane asylum sources" that had declared that the Lakers should lose this game on purpose to avoid a playoff matchup with Denver.

Zion Williamson poured in a game-high 40 points on 17-27 field goal shooting while also snaring 11 rebounds. Williamson's floater tied the score at 95 with 3:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, but he came up lame after the play and was not able to play the closing minutes; he apparently suffered a left hamstring injury, the extent of which will not be known until after further examination. The Pelicans tied the score twice more down the stretch but never took the lead, and the Lakers sealed the win by making four straight free throws in the final 10 seconds. No Pelican other than Williamson scored more than 12 points in a game that was there for the taking if Brandon Ingram (11 points on 4-12 field goal shooting, -16 plus/minus number), C.J. McCollum (nine points on 4-15 field goal shooting, -17), or Jonas Valanciunas (four points on 1-7 field goal shooting, -13) had just been a little subpar instead of abysmal. The Pelicans outrebounded the Lakers 50-41, and outscored them in the paint 62-36 as the Lakers shot just .417 from the field. Looking at the boxscore, it is difficult to understand how the Lakers won, but they did enjoy advantages in three point field goals made (14-9) and free throws made (26-11), although the latter number is a bit skewed because the Pelicans had to intentionally foul near the end of the game.

Since joining the L.A. Lakers in 2018, LeBron James has led the team to one NBA title (2020) and one NBA Cup title (2024), but the Lakers have also failed to finish in the top six in the Western Conference standings for each of the past four seasons. They lost in the first round in 2021, missed the playoffs entirely in 2022, and enjoyed a fluky run to the 2023 Western Conference Finals after surviving the Play-In Tournament. Nevertheless, one can expect that the LeBron James p.r. machine will crank into high gear during the next few days, trying to convince the world that it is a great feat for James and Davis--honored as members of the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team--to sneak into the playoffs via the Play-In Tournament. Even though the NBA does not officially keep statistics for the Play-In Tournament games, it will not be too long before someone declares that James is the greatest player in Play-In Tournament history (without questioning why a player of his historical stature annually appears in the Play-In Tournament). Regardless of what you read or hear prior to the first game of the Lakers' first round series versus the Nuggets on Saturday night, don't be fooled into believing that barely beating a non-contending team in one game will somehow translate into winning a seven game playoff series against the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in the 2023 Western Conference Finals.

The Pelicans will host the Sacramento Kings in a Play-Tournament game to determine the Western Conference's eighth seed. The Kings earned their way into that matchup by dismantling the 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, 118-94. During the TNT pregame show, Charles Barkley said that the Kings would need a big game from Keegan Murray to make up for the absence of Malik Monk. Murray delivered a game-high 32 points as every Sacramento starter scored at least 15 points. De'Aaron Fox contributed 24 points and six assists, while Domantas Sabonis added 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists.  One Play-In Tournament game win does not wipe out the disappointment from losing to the Warriors in a seven game first round series last year--but it is a step in the right direction for a Sacramento team that seemed to regress this season after an impressive 2023 campaign.

Stephen Curry scored a team-high 22 points for Golden State, but he also had a game-high six turnovers. He looked like an All-Star, not like a legend and a four-time NBA champion. Jonathan Kuminga (16 points) and Moses Moody (16 points) provided a lift off of the bench, but Draymond Green had little impact (12 points, six assists, three rebounds), and Klay Thompson was awful (0 points on 0-10 field goal shooting). 

The Warriors have had the Kings' number in recent years, so the fact that the Warriors could not muster up the necessary energy and effort to pull out an elimination game against the injury-depleted Kings speaks volumes. Barkley has said all season long that the Lakers and Warriors stink. The Lakers still have at least four games left in their season, but the Warriors have already had their TNT "Gone Fishin'" moment. The Warriors did not get much mileage out of having the NBA's highest payroll in 2023-24--paying $30.8 million to Chris "Greatest Leader in the NBA" Paul proved to be particularly wasteful--and one can expect some serious cost-cutting and roster upheaval in the wake of not just this loss but also a season that did not match the organization's lofty expectations.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:20 AM



At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Tuned in for three quarters of the GSW-Kings game last night before turning it off. Main thing that stood out was the lack of effort on GSWs part. Outside of the young players, they seemed to visibly not care about the game at all. Maybe they can reconfigure in the off-season around their aging cast somehow but the mental checking out seems to be that the end of the dynasty is here.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curry had an ok game, but not great. The Warriors needed him to have a phenomenal game to have a chance, and how often is that going to happen for anyone? The Warriors are a decent team, but obviously not that close to being a true contender. Green basically had an average game for himself, though rebounds down some. The rest of the team except for Moody was bad. They're too small to play any type of meaningful defense on a consistent basis.

The Kings have underperformed this season. They won the same number of games as the Warriors, so they aren't that great either. But at their best, they should be better than the Warriors at their best. The Kings had their top 4 players healthy. Monk and whoever else might be injured shouldn't sway the outcome. Winning this game is better than losing obviously for the Kings, but I disagree they're moving in the right direction. They still need to win on the road to even make the playoffs as an 8 seed, whereas they were a 3 seed last year. They only won 2 more games last year(48) compared to this year(46), but it looks many more teams in the West improved from last year, while the Kings remained steady at best.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 1:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


But how is it possible that the Warriors lacked energy and effort? Curry is a top 10 player of all-time, Draymond Green has a genius level basketball IQ, and Chris Paul is the best leader in all of basketball--or, perhaps, some of those evaluations are a big exaggerated!

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 1:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Monk ranked third on the Kings in scoring and assists, but you don't rank him among the team's top four players?

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 2:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Klay Thompson was 0-10, curry look slow, Draymond a first ballot hall of famer easily, but he was not good last night.

It's over dynasty end this way.

Bird in 92 to cavs, Isiah pistons tearing his Achilles. Etc. dynasty die hard

Kings will beat new Orleans now that zion. Out. But lose to okc in six

My Lakers playing well David

Bron and ad wasn't good and they still won the game.

Dlo been a top 5 pg in NBA since Jan 19th

Rubi and reaves can both score twenty

Gabe Vincent prince and Spencer dinwiddle are solid defenders who can make shots

I like our chances vs Denver were playing best ball at right time.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 2:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the 2023 WCF, and they swept them during the 2024 regular season. What do you think has changed that will change the outcome? I don't care about the Lakers' record since a particular date, or how many times they have beaten weak teams to pad their overall record. What has changed specifically regarding the Denver matchup that makes you believe that the Lakers have a chance? If you said that they have a chance to win a game, I could buy that, because it is not easy to sweep even inferior teams.

I was not aware that Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Brunson, De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Maxey, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jamal Murray (listed in no particular order) all retired. If they have not retired then your ranking of DLo as a top five PG makes no sense.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 3:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Lakers are a better team this year than last year

The nuggets didn't play well down the stretch

I think the Lakers understand how to slow down Murray this year

Luka a forward

Shai better
Brunson Better
That it

Hali didn't play well down the stretch and dlo a better shooter than him

Maxey is great but dlo a better player maker than maxey

Fox didn't play well down the stretch and he not a better play maker than dlo

Dlo been the best 3 point shooter since Jan and has one of the best turnover a sista ratio

And his numbers would be better without lebron

Lakers were 4-1 without him the last 5 since Jan

Dlo ballin

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 4:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I often mention during our conversations, saying something does not prove it to be true.

Why specifically do you think that the Lakers are better, and that they have a realistic chance to beat a Denver team that has dominated them? What evidence supports your faith in the Lakers?

Doncic is listed as a point guard and he is Dallas' primary ballhandler. No NBA GM in his right mind is taking DLo over any of the PGs that I listed (and several that I did not list). DLo is also a proven playoff choker, so we can revisit this conversation in a week or two after the first round begins and we see him facing Murray.

Most players would post better numbers without playing alongside LeBron, but that does not prove that DLo is a top five PG; it just suggests that LeBron dominates the ball, and that his style of play is more conducive to him piling up numbers than his team winning.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 4:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I wouldn't rank Monk top 4 on Sacramento. I'd put him at #5. He comes off the bench for a reason. Probably the 2 biggest indicators of a player's ability are minutes and points. He was 5th on the team minutes, but his minutes have increased lately after Huerter's been injured, so he's 5th/6th on the team in minutes basically. He's 3rd in scoring, but it's not like he's scoring 20ppg+. He's at 15.4ppg, barely ahead of Murray's 15.2ppg. 3rd in scoring/assists is great, but he's also 7th in rebounding/steals. Barnes would be the only one Monk might have a very slight edge on, but I'd still take Barnes. Monk only scores 3ppg more, but Barnes shoots much more efficiently. Barnes is also much bigger/athletic and plays much better defense.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 4:56:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


According to your logic, John Havlicek was the sixth best player for the Boston Celtics during the first half of his career, and Manu Ginobili was the sixth best player for the San Antonio Spurs during most of his career.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 5:14:00 PM, Blogger Todd Ash-Duah said...


I gotta say, It's very unfortunate that Zion got injured in last night's game. He was the best player on the court in a game featuring two future Hall of Famers in Lebron and AD.

If the Pelicans lose to the Kings on Friday (which I could definitely see happening with Sacramento having the best player on the court in De'Aaron Fox and probably the second best player as well with Sabonis), they're gonna enter into a very interesting offseason with a lot of questions. Going from (temporarily) being the 4th seed in the West a few weeks ago to missing out on the playoffs entirely would be a tough pill to swallow. Do you think it's time for New Orleans to pull the plug on the Williamson-Ingram duo?

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 5:28:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


I can see why you think the Lakers are better this year than last. Anthony Davis is having his finest season imo. Reaves and Rui are about where they were last year during their playoff run. The team has a deeper bench. And Dlo has consistently shot the ball well.

(Side note on Dlo: I'll give you he's a top-5 PG shooter...but he's nowhere close to a top-5 point guard even for only a duration of the season). Curry, Book, Shai, Brunson, Fox, Kyrie, Hali, Jrue, Derrick White, Maxey, and Luka is listed as PG and does PG stuff. Those are just the PG off the top of my head. I'd say he's been comparable to Coby White this year.)

But, losing Vanderbilt pretty much erases all of those gains (minimal as they are). The Lakers need a healthy Vanderbilt if they want to do anything this postseason beyond getting eliminated in the first round. I know that sounds weird as Vanderbilt is not a star, but his elite defense as a winger (and help defender) is absolutely vital to the Purple and Gold who lack perimeter defense. Getting Vincent back is decent, but he's nowhere close to the defender that Vanderbilt is, and can't check larger wings (Clips, Dallas, Suns).

Without Vanderbilt, the team is mediocre at best defensively (even with AD's brilliance). DLo is improved from last year on defense, but he's still objectively pretty bad. Reaves tries hard, but is mediocre. Rui provides effort, but lacks defensive BBIQ. Jaxson Hayes brings energy and athleticism, but lacks discipline. And Bron only tries every 10 or so plays. Bron's complete and utter lack of effort on defense has been the dirty secret the Lebron-loving media has not once mentioned. There's a reason why the team beat the Celtics and Bucks without him. His effort level is horrible and as the "free safety" he rarely offers any help defense. Even if he gives more effort on that end, the Lakers defense goes from bad to decent.

Mix that with their inconsistent offense, and the only way the Lakers advance is if Jokic gets hurt or the refs gift 50+ more freethrows to the Lakers for the series.

In fact, the only thing the Lakers have going for them over Denver is they get the most lopsided whistle out of any team over the past two years. Since the start of last season, they have shot +1,104 more freethrows than their opponents. The second closest to the Lakers is the Knicks at +372.

As a Lakers fan...I find this to be appalling and have actually questioned the integrity of the game multiple times over the course of the past two seasons. Last night, I knew for certain the Lakers would shoot 10+ more freethrows than the Pels. They ended up doubling up the Pels (29-15)...in a 4 point game.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 9:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I feel bad for Zion Williamson, but I also wish that he would be consistently committed to staying in shape because that is his best chance to avoid the injuries that have afflicted him throughout his career.

I remain skeptical that Ingram and Williamson will ever be on the court together long enough for the Pelicans to develop into contenders--and I am not sure that even if both players stay healthy that they could lead the Pelicans to a title. I am not sure what offers are available, but if I ran the Pelicans I would consider dealing those players for the right package. I expect that Williamson's career will be defined by injuries and unfulfilled potential.

At Wednesday, April 17, 2024 10:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


We have a large enough sample size to know who the Lakers are, and this season the Davis-James duo enjoyed as much collective health as we could ever expect to see from both of them--and the Lakers needed the Play-In Tournament just to make the playoffs.

They are not better than they were last season, and they were not very good last season, despite the hype generated by their fluky run to the WCF. The 4-0 sweep by the Nuggets showed how close these Lakers are to winning a title--hint: not close--and their eighth place finish in this year's West regular season standings confirmed their demonstrated mediocrity.

Saying that Vanderbilt would make a huge difference is equivalent to saying that the 1996 Bulls' title hopes depended on Randy Brown. I'm not buying it.


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