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NBA Notebook: Will the Lakers miss the playoffs?

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

April 8th, 2021

With March Madness concluded, it’s time for the NBA to take centerstage and recapture the attention of basketball fans.

Let’s take a look at four of the top stories from around the association in our latest NBA Notebook.

Harden's latest Injury has cost him the MVP

Just a week ago, James Harden declared himself the MVP of the league. It was a longshot call, and now it looks like an even longer one. The Beard has reaggravated a hamstring strain that will keep him out of action for at least 10 days.

While that's not a significant length of time in the grand scheme of things, in NBA scheduling terms it means Harden will be absent for five or six games and will presumably get limited minutes upon his return. That much of an absence in the middle of a tight MVP race will likely seal his fate as an also-ran against the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic.

The Nets are Still Fine 

In their first game without James Harden, Kevin Durant returned to the court after a two-month absence. The result was 139 points and a blowout victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Durant only scored 17, but it was on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night. In addition, recent acquisitions Blake Griffin added 10 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 22.

The Brooklyn Nets have yet to experience prolonged minutes with their "Big Three" on the court, but at this point they’ve stockpiled enough talent it may not matter. Aldridge and Griffin were both perennial All-Stars in the not-so-distant past, and possess a wealth of veteran savvy.

The Nets are truly an offensive juggernaut and clearly have become the deserving favorites in the East as they’ve ascended to the top-spot in the standings. It is hard to envision any team out-scoring this unit in four out of seven tries.

Eastern Conference Winner 2020/2021

Mon, August 30 2021, 11:58 PM

Brooklyn Nets

+100

Milwaukee Bucks

+300

Philadelphia 76ers

+475

Miami Heat

+1200

Boston Celtics

+1800

Indiana Pacers

+3500

Toronto Raptors

+3500

Atlanta Hawks

+7500

Chicago Bulls

+7500

New York Knicks

+8000

The Lakers are on the ropes

LeBron James has enjoyed one of the healthiest careers of any big-time NBA player in modern history. Given the minutes he has played, it is truly a testament to his freakish athleticism and dedication to his health that he has endured so long. Now that he has suffered one of the more notable injuries of his career on the heels of Anthony Davis’ prolonged calf injury, the Los Angeles Lakers are in real trouble.

The defending champs have tried to supplement their lineup and still have a number of talented players on their roster, but things look bleak at this point in the season, as they've lost six of their last 10 games.

The Lakers are fortunate to have a six-game cushion in the Western Conference standings, but as they slip down even further it's fair to wonder if L.A. can pull off a repeat.

The Suns are burning brightly

It has been a really long time since Phoenix has had a top tier team, but the Suns have been red-hot lately. After building its core with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, Phoenix added Chris Paul and Jae Crowder this season to add veteran leadership and a winning mentality.

They Suns are now one of the most efficient teams in the league and are getting better as the season goes on. Booker is a star, Paul is a cagey veteran that always elevates the play of his teammates, and Crowder and Ayton are doing plenty to help the team win.

The Suns have ascended to second place in the Western Conference and will be a difficult opponent come playoff time. Regardless of their postseason success, it’s nice to see good basketball in Phoenix again.

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