Hours after another Philadelphia 76ers triumphant victory over a favorite Wednesday, this time against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers had a chance to also upstage a more talented adversary. Fueled by Nick Young and Lou Williams’ no-conscience, unbalanced made threes, LA held a 94-91 late lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. It took one minute for the advantage to evaporate, with Julius Randle’s flailing touch near the hoop a timely issue, but Los Angeles’ inability to remain in front wasn’t the primary concern.
It came from the “clank” sound the ball would make almost every time a Laker attempted a jumper or floater in crunch time of the 105-98 loss. The Moda Center packed thousands of people, but every brick had a deafening sound. It was a quite sudden shift from the team connecting on tough, deep looks to almost missing the basket on multiple, open shots. That alarming inconsistency might prevent the Sixers from capitalizing on the Lakers’ woes in the offseason.
Having a team switch from competitive to almost woeful isn’t a controllable variable for Philadelphia, but the Lakers are incentivized to continue the unpredictability.
Speaking of unpredictability, here are the Sacramento Kings.
Team: Sacramento Kings (18-27)
Tankathon.com Ranking: 10th
Protections: In 2017, Philadelphia has the right to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings’ pick lands in the top 10 post-lottery.
Analysis/Pick Status: Raise your hand/cat if you pegged the Kings as victors of both road games against Detroit and Cleveland? Miraculously, the Kings have salvaged Rudy Gay’s injury with efficient play, reliance on role players and ball movement. DeMarcus Cousins whirling a pass out of a flawed double team from Cleveland to Arron Afflalo for the dagger Wednesday displayed his willingness to make the optimal play. For all of his eyesore shooting performances, Boogie has a skill set centers covet.
Earning another All-Star nod, Cousins (28.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG) keeps hope alive for an organization muddled in volatility. Contributions from Ty Lawson against Detroit and Malachi Richardson at Cleveland have been essential for the frontcourt menace. Finding complementary pieces after a massive blow from the Rudy Gay injury will keep the Kings from struggling consistently.
Traveling to Indiana tonight and subsequently flying to Charlotte for a game Saturday, Sacramento can either leave the top of the lottery in the rearview or enter the fray once again. Maybe the Kings caught the Cavs at their lowest point of the season. The Pacers, however, are 6-4 over their last 10 games.
Chance of Pick Conveyance: The Sixers being “too good” isn’t a generalization. They’re feeding off recent success and Brett Brown is maximizing his resources. Sacramento might not be able to sustain this breakthrough, amidst a tough road stretch and still lacking a secondary scorer. Monitor the situation here.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (16-34)
Tankathon.com Ranking: second
Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018
Analysis/Pick Status: The tepid shooting performance from Wednesday carried over to Thursday in LA’s loss to the Jazz. Brandon Ingram went 0-for-6 from the floor, the team shot a collective 28.6 percent from three and the absences of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle had a definite impact. Their replacements faltered in the 96-88 defeat, but even a healthy Lakers unit has been overwhelmed lately.
Lou Williams (18.2 PPG, 3.0 APG) has been electric in the second unit, but if you’re analyzing the Lakers, there hasn’t been a breakout candidate among their youth. Russell (14.3 PPG, 4.4 APG), Randle (13.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and Jordan Clarkson (14.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG) look to be viable contributors on an eventual playoff team, but they haven’t hit that necessary stage of their development that, for example, Jabari Parker or Kristaps Porzingis has this season.
Ingram appeared to have an unmatched ceiling on the roster, but shooting at a 35.8 percent clip and not having an impact defensively is coinciding with Lakers losses. His acclimation process is longer than expected, now evident and unfortunate for the Sixers. While it’s becoming clearer by the day that Ben Simmons was the ideal candidate to be selected first in last year’s draft, Ingram’s inability to breakout has limited LA’s ceiling this season.
Chance of Pick Conveyance: Can really only go up from here (44.2 percent). Brooklyn might not even reach 16 wins this year.