NBA Playoffs

LeBron James, Lakers officially eliminated from NBA playoff contention

LeBron James, Lakers officially eliminated from NBA playoff contention

From The Land to La La Land. The King hits Hollywood. All was supposed to be sunshine and palm trees for LeBron James and the Lakers. 

Narrator: It was not. 

The Lakers have officially been eliminated from the NBA playoffs after Friday's 110-106 loss to D'Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets, officially ending James' run of eight straight NBA Finals appearances.

But that was in the Eastern Conference. The Wild West is a whole different ball game. 

And still, this Lakers team that surrounded James with players like Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley and more, was supposed to challenge the Warriors.

Seriously? 

The Lakers' downfall started on Christmas Day, when LeBron injured his groin in a win against the Warriors. At that point, Los Angeles was 20-14 and seemed destined for the playoffs.

But James didn't return from his groin injury until Jan. 31, and the Lakers went 6-11 in his 17-game absence. Shortly after he returned, the Anthony Davis trade rumors appeared to distract the team ... and it was all downhill from there.

The last time James missed the playoffs was the 2004-05 season ... his second in the NBA, when he was only 20 years old. But now at 34, he finds himself in uncharted territory. 

[RELATED: Clyde Frazier criticizes LeBron James' distance from Lakers teammates]

All it takes is one offseason to turn things around, but the Lakers have a long ways to go if they're going to catch the Warriors. Or plenty of other teams ahead of them in the West.

Tim Hardaway explains why Raptors are biggest threat to Warriors

Tim Hardaway explains why Raptors are biggest threat to Warriors

No offense to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Eastern Conference hasn't exactly posed much of a threat to the Warriors in the NBA Finals during the last two title bouts.

But maybe that won't be the case this year.

With James heading to the Lakers last summer, the East is wide open for the first time in eight seasons and there are a number of teams that have the talent to win the conference and take on the Dubs in the NBA Finals should the Warriors get through the Western Conference gauntlet again. (They will.)

The Bucks, Raptors, 76ers and Celtics all could give Steph Curry and Co. issues in a potential NBA Finals matchup, but Warriors legend Tim Hardaway told 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo, and Dibs" on Wednesday that he believes one of those teams can present real issues for the Dubs with a title on the line.

"You know, I'm still going back and forth with who is the better matchup with the Dubs," Hardaway said. "You know, you got Toronto, they played the Dubs very well without Kawhi Leonard. You know, they came in here to Golden State and just beat them up, you know, without Kawhi Leonard. You've got the 76ers, you know, they still trying to find they way. I don't think they are quite ready for the Dubs. Somebody like Boston, I think if they get to that point they understand how to beat the Dubs. I think they understand what they need to do and if they get to that position because they got a long way to go. After they won three of four games out west, they went back home and are going through the same stuff they've been going through. So, you know, it's going to be kind of tough for them. 

"But I still feel that Toronto is probably the best team that could come out the East to play against Golden State and give them a run for their money. You know, they have the size, they have the athleticism, they can switch out on guards and they can score the basketball. So I think that team -- same way with Boston, but I don't think Boston has found they rhythm yet. I still think they are looking for they identity, still looking for who is going to do what, how are they going to do it, but I think Toronto is right there. So that's the team out of the East that can give Golden State a run for their money."

Toronto has looked like a true title contender in what could be the only year of the Kawhi era. The arrival of the 2014 NBA Finals MVP coupled with the emergence of Pascal Siakam and the acquisition of Marc Gasol has made the Raptors a force to be reckoned with.

[RELATED: Kobe Bryant reveals what sets Warriors apart from other NBA contenders]

The Raptors defeated the Warriors in both games during the regular season with Curry and Leonard each missing one of the contests. Toronto has the versatility, athleticism, veteran experience and star power to give the Warriors problems with everything on the line.

The Raptors will have to get through a different looking Eastern Conference in order to bring the defending champs north to battle for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but if they do it'll set up a Finals matchup that Hardaway believes would be quite the test for the Dubs.

Many have taken their shot at the Warriors since Kevin Durant's arrival and none have succeeded in knocking them off their throne. Should the Raptors make it to the championship round, chances are they'll suffer the same fate their ferocious mascot did when an asteroid struck the planet 65 million years ago -- extinction.

Best of luck.

Russell Westbrook suspended one game after technical foul vs. Warriors

Russell Westbrook suspended one game after technical foul vs. Warriors

The Warriors got the better of Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Saturday night.

In addition to securing an impressive 110-88 road win without Kevin Durant, Golden State held Westbrook to just seven points on 2-of-16 shooting, and provoked multiple emotional reactions out of Oklahoma City's star point guard.

One of those reactions resulted in Westbrook being assessed a technical foul, his 16th of the season. That earned Westbrook an automatic one-game suspension, which he will serve Monday night when the Thunder host the Heat.

That's relevant to the Warriors for a couple reasons.

For one, particularly with Golden State's victory Saturday, the chances that the Warriors could face Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs appear greater than they did two weeks ago. The Thunder (42-28) have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NBA, and currently sit just two games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth seed in the West.

If Oklahoma City loses to Miami on Monday, that possibility becomes even more likely.

Additionally, Westbrook's automatic suspension presents a good time to review Draymond Green's status as it relates to technical fouls. With 14 games remaining on Golden State's regular-season schedule, Green currently has 14 technical fouls on the season. That means he would have to accrue at least two more technicals in the remaining 14 games in order to be suspended.

The technical foul counts reset at the start of the playoffs, so Green's slate will be swiped clean approximately a month of now. Players earn an automatic one-game suspension after their seventh postseason technical.

[RELATED: Warriors first in West to clinch playoff spot, make history]

With only one game currently separating the Warriors and the Denver Nuggets for the top record in the West, it would behoove Green to avoid an automatic suspension.

Golden State certainly hopes he can avoid one in the playoffs as well.