The Lakers playoff hopes may have taken the final nail in the coffin with their Monday night loss to the in-city rival Clippers. Much was made of LeBron James effort (or perceived lack of) level in the loss, despite James racking up 27 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST with only 2 TO in the loss. Yes, Kyle Kuzma pushed James into a shot-contest in the clip seen ‘round the world, and yes, that is a routine thing that happens all the time in professional hoops, and doesn’t mean as much as people tried to make it out to be.
Either way, the Lakers are likely out of playoff contention, which opens up the doors for the Clippers, Kings and Spurs to fight it out for the last two spots in the Western Conference playoff picture. The NBA changes quickly, and perhaps nothing signifies that as much as the upstart Kings being in the same conversation as the Spurs, the gold standard when it comes to franchise consistency.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the dysfunction of the uber-talented Boston Celtics has put them in position to finish as a bottom-4 playoff seed despite their great net rating. Kyrie Irving has been a problematic quote machine, essentially throwing gasoline on the flames that are rumors of Irving’s departure from Boston this offseason.
Whether or not Kyrie stays, the Celtics are in a position to move forward with a successful, young and talented core. But there hopes of making an NBA Finals run are in serious jeopardy if they can’t find some sort of consistency moving forward. Boston has an interesting stretch of games to end the season that will see them play both playoff contenders and rebuilding teams who have played better as of late.
Irving has shown that he can still get buckets in a hurry, but Boston will need a clear-cut secondary scoring option, as well as continued focus on the defensive end of the floor as they head into the postseason. The Sixers and Pacers stand as the most likely 1st round playoff opponents for the C’s, and thankfully for head coach Brad Stevens, Boston has a few more chances to play the Sixers and Pacers before the season ends.
Playoff matchups will be on the minds of some of the more pensive NBA head coaches as we near the end of the season. It will be intriguing to see if any coaches feel strongly enough to commit to any lineup/roster shenanigans in order to put their squads in a better position to play a particular opponent in the 1st round of the postseason.
Click here to see our most updated power rankings as we watch the NBA playoff picture start to take its final form.