NBA Notebook: Anthony Davis is back, but are the Lakers?
This weekend will have us all turning our calendars into the month of May, and with it the final stretch of the NBA regular season. Let’s take a look at the top stories from around the Association as the action continues to heat up.
A New York State of Mind
We begin with the Knicks, who recently pulled off an improbable nine-game winning streak, thereby launching themselves into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The streak was New York's second-longest in the last 25 years, and the longest since the 2012-13 season. Julius Randle has been the catalyst for the club's success with his All-NBA level play. The 26-year-old forward is averaging career-highs across the board this season in points (23.9), rebounds (10.4), and assists (6.0)
The Knicks began the season well, but there was always doubt they could sustain their winning ways. As we approach the final month of the season, a top-6 seed feels imminent. Regardless of postseason outcomes, this has been a season to remember for the Knicks and their fans.
The Blazers are Sliding
The Portland Trail Blazers looked poised to make a run at the Western Conference coming out of the All-Star break, but they have faltered and most recently suffered five straight defeats. The slide has pushed them down to seventh in the conference standings, and they will need to reverse course quickly if they hope to make some noise in the postseason.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
The problem for the Blazers has been their defense, as they gave up over 115 points per game during their losing streak. For the season, they sit 29th out of 30 teams in overall defensive efficiency, a dreadful reflection of their deficiency and what will ultimately keep them from being championship contenders.
Anthony Davis and the Lakers need to make up for lost time
Anthony Davis missed over two months of the season with a calf injury, but has now returned to the Los Angeles Lakers, and intends to play in every remaining game. "I’ve missed 30 games, so I think I’ve had enough rest to be able to play those back-to-backs, so I plan on playing both ends of the back-to-backs that we have," he recently told reporters.
Davis recognizes the value he brings to the Lakers, so he intends to do everything he can to help them maintain a top-6 seed. In his return to action, he has increasingly seen his minutes increase. He scored four, then 17, then 18 points in his first three games back, and went from -11, to -19, to +6 on the plus/minus chart.
However, Davis was also just 1-11 from three in his first three games, which should serve as a reminder that he needs to find his way back into the paint before he can be considered fully recovered. His ability to hit his stride will be critical in determining whether the Lakers can repeat as champs.
The Suns are Rising
The Phoenix Suns have +2000 odds to win the NBA Championship and +900 to win the Western Conference, but those numbers don’t reflect just how dominant they've been this season. The Suns have the second best record in the league, and have consistently beaten the NBA's top tier teams.
At 37-23-1 against the spread, they have also been money for their supporters, and there might still be fruit on the vine. With injury issues affecting Denver and Los Angeles, and defense a major problem in Portland, the Suns are as capable of winning the Western Conference as anyone. Consider sprinkling some money on their attractive odds today before they get any shorter.