Making NBA playoffs tough task for L.A. Lakers

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Monumental questions have plagued mankind since the beginning of time.

The ancient philosophers contemplated “What is the meaning of life?”

Bill Cosby asked “Why is there air?”

And current pundits are debating “Will the Lakers make the Playoffs?”

This subject was commented upon in last week’s column and since then there has been significant movement on a proposition wager that asked that very same question – the one about the Lakers, not the ones on life or air.

The LVH last Tuesday opened the prop with the YES priced at minus 120 and the NO at Even Money. It did not take long for the bets to flood in on the NO part of the prop such that the NO currently is priced at better than minus 2 to 1.

Thus the subject requires closer scrutiny as the suggestion was made last week that indeed the NO might be the side of the prop with the edges.

Of course a significant winning or losing streak could make it virtually a moot point in a couple of week, but let’s examine some specific history and revisit the Lakers’ upcoming schedule and post season chances.

After back to back home wins over Utah and Oklahoma City the Lakers start this week with a 19-25 record. They have moved up two spots in the Western Conference standings over the past week and currently are tenth, four games behind the team currently holding the eighth and final Playoff seed, Houston.

Portland, currently ninth, trails Houston by a half game and is three and a half games ahead of the Lakers.

With 37 games remaining the Lakers will have to win nearly two thirds of those game to have a realistic chance of making the Playoffs. Going 24-14 over those final 37 games would give the Lakers a record of 43-39.

In the 9 seasons prior to last season’s lockout shortened 66 game campaign, it has taken between 44 and 50 wins to earn the Western Conference’s eighth seed 7 times. Once it took 43 wins to gain that final Playoff spot and once 42 wins was enough. Prorating last season’s 66 game schedule, eighth seeded Utah’s 36-30 record computes out to a full season with 45 wins.

If the teams with whom the Lakers are contending for the final few Playoff spots play just .500 basketball the rest of the way (or one game below in the case of teams with an odd number of games remaining) a 43-39 record would tie the Lakers with Utah for the final two Playoff seeds. Houston, currently eighth with its 24-22 record, would finish ninth by going 18-18 for a 42-40 record and the Lakers would make the Playoffs with just 43 wins.

But that’s if the Lakers indeed do go 24-14 (or better).

A look at their remaining schedule suggests it could be a tough task. Of their remaining 38 games 21 are on the road where the Lakers are just 5-15 thus far. 5 of those 21 games are vs. teams currently winning 60 percent or more of their games. The Lakers also have 5 home games (where they are 14-10) against this same class of teams.

16 of their remaining road games are against teams winning less than 60 percent of their games, including 7 games against teams winning less than 40 percent of their games. Half a dozen home games are against this same group of teams and half a dozen home games are against teams winning between 40 and 60 percent of their games.

If we isolate the half dozen teams currently in seventh through twelfth place in the West, including the Lakers, we can reasonably expect Minnesota to continue to fade with star Kevin Love sidelined. The Timberwolves are on a 1-9 slide through last Sunday. Dallas, which starts the week with the same record as the Lakers, is a much less talented team and should finish behind them.

That leaves Houston, Utah, Portland and the Lakers contending for the final two Playoff berths.

A case can be made that the Lakers have bottomed out and that their worst play is behind them. Those back to back wins over the Jazz and Thunder, albeit both at home, can be taken as signs of improved play. And despite their 19-25 mark the Lakers have outscored their opposition by an average of 1.4 points per game. Houston is right there at plus 1.5 ppg but both Utah and Portland have been outscored by their foes for the season.

What makes it tough for the Lakers is that they are not awaiting the return of a key player from a lengthy injury as is Chicago (Derrick Rose), Indiana (Danny Granger) or even the L A Clippers (Chauncey Billups).

And their road record is a concern. Only Phoenix, Sacramento and Washington have fewer road wins than the Lakers.

Still, sometimes the inherent value in a wager can compensate for the apparent obstacles that stand in the way of the wager being successful. A week ago the value was in betting the Lakers to NOT make the Playoffs when the price on the NO was even money.

In the ensuing week not only has the priced switched dramatically so that the YES is now plus 150 or higher, but the Lakers have reversed form, albeit in just two home games.

This is looking as though the number 8 seed might well have a record barely above .500. The Lakers are arguably a more talented team than Houston, Portland or Utah.

And if you were able to play the NO last week at even money or at a slightly minus vig, you now have the opportunity to play the YES at a nice plus price.

Here’s a look at three attractive games to be played this weekend.

Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers (Friday): These teams have met once earlier this season, also in Indiana, with Miami losing 87-77 despite being a 2 point road favorite. Both teams last played on Wednesday with Miami at Eastern contender Brooklyn while the Pacers hosted Detroit. Pretty much under the radar, Indiana has become a solid defensive team while also having trouble at the offensive end of the court. 

The Pacers are tied with Washington in averaging just 91.4 points per game and are second only to Memphis in allowing just 89.2 ppg. 11 of Indiana’s last 14 games have stayed UNDER the Total, including that earlier meeting with the Heat. UNDER the Total.

Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks (Saturday): Despite the season long absence of injured star Derrick Rose and injuries that have sporadically kept other key starters on the sidelines, Chicago is currently seeded third in the East with a 26-17 record. Atlanta sits sixth, just a game and a half behind the Bulls. These teams have split their prior meetings this season with each winning at home. 

In their most recent meeting the Bulls embarrassed the Hawks with a 97-58 rout of Atlanta on January 14. The Hawks are in a much more favorable scheduling spot after not having played since hosting Toronto on Wednesday. Meanwhile the Bulls just played at Brooklyn on Friday night. ATLANTA.

Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics (Sunday): After splitting the last ten games the Clippers have fallen to third place in the West but that speaks to the strength in that conference. At 33-13 the Clippers would be ahead of the East’s top seed, Miami. Boston learned during Sunday’s home win over Miami that star Rajon Rondo will miss the balance of the season with a torn ACL. 

That puts this aging team in serious jeopardy of missing the Playoffs. The Celtics are currently in eighth place in the East but have not been playing well. That win over Miami snapped a six game losing streak. The Celtics are playing to avenge a 106-77 loss at the Clippers two days after Christmas. The Clippers are in the third game of an eight game road trip and were without Chris Paul for both games of a home and home series with Portland over the weekend. Paul’s presence will be the key to this selection. If Paul plays, the selection will be on the CLIPPERS. If Paul is out, the play is UNDER.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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