The NBA has officially released the schedule for their Orlando games, and it has a new wrinkle that we didn’t see coming in our first schedule breakdown.
Not only did the league replace games against Utah and Washington with games against OKC and the Clippers, but the Lakers will actually open their schedule against the latter.
Lakers Basketball is officially back. Here are your end of summer plans.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) June 26, 2020
This was a clear attempt by the league to spice things up and increase ratings from the start, and it was another good call by Adam Silver. An opening night featuring two of the best teams on the planet is exactly what the league needed to firmly announce its return, but how will they look after such a long layoff?
Chances are that players will be a bit rusty and lacking chemistry, which would put a slight damper on the festivities. But this shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Lakers have a great opportunity to capitalize on their schedule in one of two ways.
They Make a Statement out of the Gate
The Lakers were the best team in the NBA at the stop of play, that much was clear after their back-to-back victories over the Clippers and Bucks. If they can harness even a small amount of that chemistry and bring it with them to Orlando, there is no question they can win every single game. Having to face the Clippers out of the gate is rough, but both teams will be facing similar difficulties.
If they are able to come out strong and get a win against their LA counterparts, I am completely convinced that they will breeze through the remaining 7 games as they tune-up for the playoffs and lock up the top seed in the process.
They Treat Games as Pre Season Matchups
While the first scenario would be a lot of fun for fans and players alike, this one is much more likely. A smarter approach would be for LeBron and company to take things slow and avoid putting pressure on themselves to win every game. After all, the Lakers have the added benefit of a 5.5 game lead over the Clippers for the top seed. As long as the Lakers go 3-5, they lock up the top seed in the west regardless of how many games the Clippers win.
Treating these games as a tune-up for the playoffs might actually be beneficial in more ways than one. It would allow players to ease back in while allowing the coaching staff to analyze their opponents for possible matchups later on. The Lakers play 4 games against teams that they might face in the playoffs at some point (LA, Houston, Utah, and Denver). And while it would be great to win every one of those matchups, a loss here and there wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The Lakers have been one of the best teams all year long, and they will finally get to reap the benefits. Most teams that will play in Orlando are either fighting for positioning or fighting just to make it into the final 16. Meanwhile, LA has the benefit of having their position all but secured. If the Lakers are able to win a majority of the remaining regular-season games, then lock them in as your 2020 Champions. But if they falter a bit and look less than stellar as they put their focus on the playoffs, they may still be operating according to plan.
Hang in there, basketball fans. July 30th is almost here.