“Whoever came up with that $#&% needs to be fired,” LeBron James said two years ago of the advent of the NBA’s play-in tournament. Now, it might be the one thing that could redeem the Lakers frustrating regular season.
Heading into tonight’s critical “road” game against the Clippers at 10 pm EST, the Lakers sit at 41-38 with an identical record as their Crypto Arena neighbors but have lost the three previous games against LAC. Regardless, this head-to-head breaks the record tie with just three games remaining for both teams. There is a myriad of Pepe-Silvia-conspiracy-theory-Charlie-It’s-Always-Sunny-in-Philadelphia-meme tiebreaker scenarios between the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, and Pelicans, but it’s safe to say, this is a big one and could ultimately be the difference between playing in the play-in or not.
In his five-game return since a severe foot strain, LeBron James looks like he never left. He’s averaging 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, including a 37-point game in an overtime win over in Utah last night. And with Anthony Davis playing like an MVP candidate (nearly 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists per game) during LA’s seven wins in their last eight games that’s not just put them in the play-in tournament conversation, but in the running for as high as the #5 seed.
For the Clippers, they’re still weathering the loss of Paul George. They’re 3-3 since PG-13 sprained his knee. Of course, tonight also marks the first time that Russell Westbrook will face his former team since he was salary-dumped at the trade deadline. After a rocky start, he’s regained his form and been a positive for the Clips; they’re a +3.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.
In the first game of the ESPN doubleheader, the East-leading Bucks host their Central Division rival Bulls at 7:30 pm EST. Both teams are on the backend of a back-to-back and are fairly locked in to their playoff seeding. Chicago has clinched a spot in the play-in tournament and are two games back in the loss column behind the Hawks and Raptors. Milwaukee only has to win one of their next three games to lock up home court advantage throughout the playoffs. With both teams playing on Tuesday, it’s unclear who’ll be available this evening.
At the Crypt, the Clippers are favored by 3 in the Battle of Los Angeles. In the meeting of the midwest, Milwaukee are 7-point favorites with the Bulls traveling 90 miles north up I-94.
The playoff implications will be the big story, but as mentioned, the real drama might be Westbrook playing against the team that gave up on him. Our friends at DraftKings have this juicy quick single game parlay for Russ’ revenge game: if the former walking triple-double can score 20+ points, dish out 5+ assists, and grab 5+ rebounds, DK is giving you +340 odds.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.