30-30. Finally the Lakers reach the .500 mark in 2013. The Lakers are two and half games out of the 8 seed and have gone 13-5 since January 25th. Last night Kobe and the other Lakers hyped themselves up a bit saying that they have turned a corner and will deliver on Kobe’s promise to make the playoffs. They’re in pretty good position to do so. Houston, Golden State, and Utah are ahead by a decent margin but both Golden State and Utah are slipping. Utah also has a very difficult schedule the rest of the way. Also working in the Lakers favor is their point differential which is how much a team has outscored or been outscored by the opposition and may be better than a team’s win-loss record. For the season the Laker’s have out-scored opponents by an average of 1.2 points a game(their expected Win –Loss record is 33-27) . Utah is even for the season(expected Win-Loss of 29-30) and the Warriors have actually been out-scored by .6 points a game for the year(expected win-loss of 29031). The Warriors have benefitted from a great record in close games and some luck. The Lakers have had bad luck all year even if we take out their injuries and the passing of the great Jerry Buss. Even when LA’s record was way below .500 they still had a positive point differential and SHOULD have been a winning team. It didn’t work out that way but the evidence shows that The Lakers are a better team than The Warriors and the Jazz( and that the Rockets are better than all three of them with a 3.4 point differential and an expected win-loss of 37-24) and still have enough time to prove it.
All of the above is relatively good news considering how low the Lakers were earlier in the season. Just making the playoffs still falls way short of this team’s expectations going into this season. Kobe for one still has faith saying that he’s not scared of the Thunder or the Spurs if the Lakers face them in the first round. Here’s the thing though as stated earlier the Lakers are winning more games now but they’re actually not any better. Their point differential was always positive even when they losing 60% of their games and even though they’re winning now, they’re not blowing any one away. Case in point last night’s win at home vs. the Hawks. The Hawks are a pretty good team so it’s not bad that the Lakers barely beat them but the Lakers could just as easily had lost last night. The last play of the game The Hawks were right next to the basket and then threw the ball away. Compare that game with way the Heat beat the Knicks. Both great games but once the Heat went up in the fourth quarter, they stayed up and won the game by 6. The Lakers analysts talked about how the Lakers need to get better at putting teams away. Here’s the thing though, the reason the Lakers can’t put any one away is because they’re not good enough to. That’s the reason why the Lakers lost so many close games earlier and why they can beat a bad team decisively one night and then lose big to a good team the next night. Also while the Laker’s point differential compares favorably with the teams at the bottom of the playoff picture, they are light years behind the top teams. The Heat’s point differential is 7.1, the Spur’s is 9.1, and Thunder have a 9.4 point differential. So of course it is very fitting that the team the Lakers have to beat in order to climb above .500 for the first time all season is The Thunder. That game is tomorrow and it may be a playoff preview but unless the Laker’s improve dramatically over the last 22 games Kobe should be scared.