Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Once and for all, do the Lakers make the playoffs or not?
Steve Aschburner: Lakers are in. C’mon, after Wednesday, they have only three nicely spaced-out home games remaining, against teams with rest-and-recuperate agendas. Utah has to navigate a tricky home-and-home with feisty Minnesota, which still might be looking for a positive end to a dreary season. And oh yeah – there’s the furnace blast of Kobe Bryant‘s it’s-not-over-till-he-says-it’s-over will. The Commish will not have to settle for his final postseason sans Lakers.
Fran Blinebury: No. Every time the Lakers have looked ready to take the next step, it winds up being off another cliff.
Jeff Caplan: Hey L.A., at least the Clippers are in. As amazing as Kobe’s around-the-clock performances are, the Lakers will rue just one of their many ugly losses. The Jazz own the tiebreaker so L.A. must finish a game up. After pulling off a grueling home win against the Hornets, the Lakers must play Wednesday night (L.A. hasn’t swept a back-to-back all season) at Portland where they’ve won four times in the last 10 years (0-1 this season). Then there’s the remaining three games. Yes, L.A. gets them all at home, but against a Golden State team fighting to hold onto the sixth seed, San Antonio (take a guess as to which starters Gregg Popovich will or won’t play with the No. 1 seed unsettled) and then Houston, which wants Golden State’s sixth seed to avoid the Spurs and Thunder in the first round. Utah’s final three? Home-and-home against Minnesota and then at Memphis, which might or might not have anything to play for. Give me the Jazz.
Scott Howard-Cooper: They make the playoffs, but I don’t have a good reason to think that. My reason is that it is impossible to imagine them not making it. Even this late, even after everything. Incomprehensible. Plus, I like their home-heavy schedule to finish, and the Jazz are not exactly the most trustworthy bunch going either.
John Schuhmann: I really have no idea, because neither the Lakers nor Jazz can be relied upon to win the games they’re supposed to. The Lakers barely beat the Hornets at home on Tuesday. Even with the urgency of a playoff push, both L.A. and Utah have been below average defensive teams since the All-Star break, giving any opponent a chance on any given night. But I’ll guess that the Lakers go 2-2 and the Jazz go 2-1, making Utah my pick. Either way, I’ll be riveted by every game these two teams play until the 8 seed is decided.
Sekou Smith: I’ve done more waffling on this one over the past two months than I’m ready to admit. I think the Lakers’ season on the brink goes over the edge this time and they miss out on the playoffs. And it has more to do with the Jazz rising up and making their own late charge for that eighth and final spot in the Western Conference than it does anything the Lakers have or have not been able to get done down the stretch run of the regular season. The Lakers had every opportunity to seize control of that spot and couldn’t handle the responsibility.