Game Day: Now, Lakers have a lot to lose
Editor’s note: This is the Thursday, May 11, 2023 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Good morning. Today marks one month since the Lakers began their NBA playoff run by winning their play-in game. A lot has changed in that time, for them and the league. They’re no longer longshots with little to lose.
Elsewhere in Southern California sports:
- The Dodgers solved another Milwaukee lefty and capped a 4-2 trip; the Padres come to L.A. Friday.
- The Angels fell in Houston to close a 2-4 homestand; they start a trip to Cleveland and Baltimore on Friday.
- Baseball columnist J.P. Hoornstra found the most interesting features of the new collective bargaining agreement, including rules about gambling.
- The Galaxy moved into the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 with a rare win over Seattle.
- Dennis Rodman’s son D.J. is transferring from Washington State to join LeBron James’ son Bronny at USC.
The Lakers absorbed two blows last night.
They lost on the road 121-106 to the Golden State Warriors, butting the Lakers’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, with Game 6 coming up tomorrow in Los Angeles and Game 7 if necessary Sunday in San Francisco.
And Anthony Davis, with whom the Lakers rise and fall, was knocked out of the game for the last 7:43, apparently dazed by an inadvertent elbow to the head from the Warriors’ Kevon Looney, leaving his status for Friday in doubt.
Reporter Elliott Teaford, on the road with the Lakers, watched Davis leave the locker room and walk to the team bus after the game and described what he saw.
“He didn’t need assistance, but his gait was deliberate, measured,” Teaford wrote. “Davis was the last of the Lakers to depart.”
Davis didn’t talk with reporters, and the Lakers gave out no update on his injury, but TNT sideline reporter Chris Haynes offered encouraging news that Davis appeared not to have sustained a concussion.
Bookmark the Southern California News Group papers’ Lakers coverage and follow Teaford on Twitter (@ElliottTeaford) for updates.
The thought of losing Davis’ playoff-time 21.5 points a game and 13.5 rebounds made that blow to the head the shot felt ‘round L.A.
Suddenly, a bad break like that could cost the Lakers a lot.
The Lakers began the playoffs proud just to have recovered from a 2-10 start to the regular season and to have made it this far. Then the Lakers, the seventh seeds in the West, beat the Memphis Grizzlies, who were second seeds, in the opening round. And then, in other series around the country, other high seeds began to fall away, the Sacramento Kings and Clippers, Nos. 3 and 5 in the West, and the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, Nos. 1 and 4 in the East.
Now, the Boston Celtics, No. 2 in the East, are in trouble, trailing 3-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers, as three of the four current series are poised for upsets. The top four teams in pre-playoffs betting on the NBA championship are either out (Milwaukee) or trailing in their series (Boston, Phoenix Suns, Golden State). As a result, the Lakers, seventh in NBA title odds at 14-1 before round 1, are up to fourth at 4-1 (and had been third before last night).
They remain a team that struggled in the regular season and received only one nod of recognition when All-NBA teams were announced yesterday, LeBron James named to the third team for his 19th career All-NBA honor.
“But it’s better to be going strong in May, rather than peaking in the (regular season),” columnist Jim Alexander writes. “The Lakers team we’re watching now is a completely different unit from the one that slogged through the first half before being rejuvenated at the trade deadline.”
This Lakers team is winning a battle with the NBA’s defending champions, replete with bruising elbows and coaches’ banter about the officiating. Win this and they’re in the conference finals, likely against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets. That would be a higher climb but only one step from the finals.
Between their own improvement and the high seeds’ struggles, the Lakers are in position to win more than belated respect in these playoffs, and to feel real regret if they can’t take advantage.
- UCLA’s No. 2-ranked softball team faces Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals (4 p.m., Pac12N). How the Bruins got here.
BETWEEN THE LINES
NBA championship betting was scrambled after lower-seeded teams took leads in three of the four conference semifinal series. Denver (+290) was the favorite this morning, with Philadelphia (+325) second, Boston (+400) down to third and the Lakers (+425) fourth on VegasInsider’s odds list.
“Davis has gone through the tunnel and into the locker room. That may be the most important development for the Lakers right now, both tonight and for the remainder of the series.” – Jim Alexander (@Jim_Alexander), on the road with the Lakers, tweeting at the moment that Anthony Davis’ injury became a serious matter last night.
In pain: Anthony Davis, on the Lakers’ bench, feels the effects of being hit in the head inadvertently by a Warriors player’s forearm in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s 121-106 victory last night in San Francisco. Photo is by Godofredo A. Vásquez for AP.
Thanks for reading. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at email@example.com and via Twitter @KevinModesti.
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