Pinning down the Play-In
The Lakers are strong favorites; everything else is tight
BY DAVID THORPE
I love everything about the Play-In tournament; I love how they made the regular season more interesting; I love one-and-done pressure games; and I love how the winners walk into matchups against top seeds with extra bounce in their step. Heck, I even wish these games were played Final Four style in a neutral site like Vegas, but I’ll take them any way I can get them.
If I have one complaint it’s that, in the tournament’s early history, we have yet to see a coach win a game for his team with fearless innovation. My fondest wish is that we finally see a coach try something totally different than what he’s shown all year. Basketball history is full of evidence that full-court presses, half-court traps, 20 more 3-point shots than normal, ultra-jumbo, or super-small lineups can all determine single-elimination games. Close games are most likely in every case, but every team here is capable of having an off night—that’s why they’re not top-six teams. Maybe a creative team can inspire an opponent’s bad game.
In other words, we’re hoping for the unexpected.
Timberwolves at Lakers
Lakers 23-18 at home; Wolves 20-21 on road
Lakers 1-2 vs. Wolves this season
I was asked yesterday if the Lakers might “play old.” I don’t think they have been playing old, and I don’t think they’ll play old in this one. For one, the Lakers, 16-7 since the All-Star break have been playing dominant defense. Plus, if this was the Lakers’ roster from Day One, there’s no way they’d be stuck in the Play-In.
Really everything boils down to whether the Lakers play this game tight—there is pressure to perform. They have to win one of two games to make the playoffs. I doubt they care which seed they get. Of course, there’s always a little pressure to win the first game, and the Lakers’ stars could probably use the rest they’d get if they do.
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