The NBA’s hottest conspiracy theory is that the Lakers’ rivals in the Western Conference are trying to help Portland finish eighth in the playoffs.
The Trail Blazers were one of the most impressive teams in the bubble, with victories over Houston and Denver, and nearly defeated Boston, which is third in the East and won 46 games.
So when the Clippers coach Doc Rivers rested on Kauhi Leonard on Saturday against the Trail Blazers and then pulled his other star, Paul George, out of the game with three minutes left, and the Clippers after three raised eyebrows. Was it an attempt to throw the game to improve the Lakers’ chances of having to see this tough team in the first round?
Rivers said George was simply limited in minutes and reached his limit.
The coach was then asked if he thought the Trail Blazers could beat the Lakers.
“I don’t get involved,” said Rivers, whose team beat Portland even though there were no stars in the end. “I honestly don’t watch it. I heard our boys talk about it, like, “Listen, it’s their job. Our business is who we play. “We need to focus on that.”
The Lakers also refused to join the conversation after their 116-111 loss to Indiana. LeBron James, who scored 31 points against the Pacers, said it was not his job.
Coach Frank Vogel was asked about the Clippers’ decisions with their stars and how this could affect his team.
“I have no problem with that,” Vogel said. “Everyone has to manage their team in their own way.”
Even more on his mind is the management of his Lakers team, which lost its third game in a row since ranking first in the West and fell 2-4 in the bubble.
Vogel has not yet played his expected playoff rotation and on Saturday night gave significant minutes to reserves Jared Dudley, Queen Cook and Talen Horton-Tucker. Cook was the Lakers’ second leading scorer with 21 points. Dwight Howard offered a late boost with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Anthony Davis saw frequent double teams and made just three of 14 shots, scoring eight points.
“Obviously I need to be better,” Davis said. “I looked good tonight. Just missed. Some photos around the rim – arrangements that I missed. Open threes – missed. Open photo in the middle range. The footage just didn’t come in. “
Pacers forward TJ Warren scored 39 points, continuing to stand out, showing in the bubble.
Vogel expects to continue experimenting with his squads during the next two seed games. He will wait until the break before the start of the playoffs to work on these rotations. Until then, he will also be closer to knowing which team the Lakers will face in the first round.
Saturday’s Clippers win knocked out Portland’s game and a half back from eighth seed Memphis Grizzlies, and the Trail Blazers are just halfway ahead of 10th seed Phoenix, who is 5-0 in the bubble.
After the sowing games are over, the eighth and ninth teams in the West will take part in a game.
If the eighth seed wins, he goes to the playoffs. If the ninth seed wins, the teams play an elimination game.
And while the Lakers are paying attention to this race, on Saturday night they found reasons to feel optimistic about themselves.
“We wanted to get better today; “I feel like us,” James said. “… We played Lakers basketball tonight and winning, losing or drawing, when we do that, we will give ourselves a chance to be very successful in the winning column.”
Three observations on the Lakers:
– LeBron James is becoming more comfortable with the oddities of the game in the bubble. He said after the match that he could not remember the last time he played a real game in an empty gym – this did not happen even in high school.
– Talen Horton-Tucker wins more minutes in the rotation with his game. After scoring 10 points against Houston on Thursday, the 19-year-old rookie scored 10 against Indiana.
– After shooting 10.5%, 13.5% and 25% of three-point range in three of their first bubble games, the Lakers shot better on Saturday. This is partly due to the performance of Quinn Cook, who made five of nine three-pointers and was their second leading scorer.