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Moral victories occur when teams take a loss, but instead of being discouraged, the losing team still think they did enough to consider themselves winners.
The Lakers win over the Clippers was considered a moral victory since the Clips did not have their two best bench players in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The Lakers could only muster a 2-point win from LeBron’s heroics.
James has his worst shooting night against the Clippers. Not surprising because they have the two most effective LeBron stoppers in the last decade. With Williams and Harrell, the Clippers have the two best players outside the superstar duos. Both can score north of 15 points and play decent defense. They are the players that the Lakers hoped Kyle Kuzma would be.
The advantage for the Lakers is Anthony Davis. The Clippers are ready for LeBron, but you really don’t have an answer for AD. In the next two years, when LeBron is at the end of his rope and Kawhi is no longer a surprise, the two best players will be Giannis and AD — whichever teams they would actually be playing for.
Tough finals road
While the focus is on the Battle of LA, there are actually real threats in the Bubble. The way the seeding games are constructed, the No.1 seed would face a battle-tested team in the first round.
Portland, Memphis, New Orleans and now, even the San Antonio Spurs are mounting their playoff runs, and they could end up being more worthy opponents than the higher seeds, simply because they had to fight for their seed more. In contrast, the Lakers could be lulled by a false sense of complacency since they sealed the top seed with their second win.
The Milwaukee Bucks are almost guaranteed a cakewalk with the undermanned Brooklyn Nets. Even in the second round, their possible opposition would be the Heat or the Pacers.
Will the tough road to the Finals take its toll on the Lakers, considering they have a shallow bench? LeBron James needs to bring on his best playoff performances one more time, but more importantly, they have to remain healthy.
Anthony Davis can be a free agent at the end of the season. It’s almost sure that he will re-sign with the Lakers and become the face of Earth’s most popular basketball franchise. But what if they have an unexpected early exit?
Should the Lakers be players in the offseason?
The Clippers undoubtedly have a lingering confidence in them. Despite not being the top seed, they feel that the work is done, and they only need to play it out. Their roster is tight from top to bottom, with the versatility of their two stars. They have a solid core rotation with Kawhi, PG, Lou, Harrell, Beverley, Shamet, Patterson along with Zubac and Green. There’s also Reggie Jackson and Joakim Noah.
The Lakers still need that third star that they can depend on. They may need to use Bird Rights on Davis and let the contracts expire, but is there a target they can pursue?
Zach Lavine is a UCLA guy who is usually criticized for his scoring stats while being unable to bring the team to any respectable level. He sounds like a good candidate — someone the Lakers can actually trade for.
Kyle Kuzma and his team-friendly contract will be the prime trade fodder, the other team hoping he could develop more. The Lakers can only trade their 2023 first round pick, and they need to throw in Avery Bradley or Danny Green to match the salaries.
The Lakers understand quality-for-quantity trades, and if they fail to take a chip this season, they will definitely pull all the stops for LeBron James’ contract year.
Raptors turning into T-Rex?
Are the Toronto Raptors the most underrated team in the league? They appear to be much stronger than they’re ranked. They’re written off because they lost a top three player in Kawhi, but the team without Kawhi was actually a contender by itself.
Maybe Milwaukee should not be so confident since the Raptors are turning into the King Lizard right under our noses.
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