The Los Angeles Lakers dropped a dud on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies and are now entering the team’s toughest two-week stretch of the season.
The Los Angeles Lakers‘ schedule was criticized a lot at the beginning of the season, as the team was only playing “bad teams”. The Lakers have since proven that narrative wrong, as they have continued their winning ways deep into the season as the first seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers are right around league average in remaining strength of schedule, ranking 16th with a .498 strength of schedule in the last 24 games. However, most of the challenging games are in the coming weeks, as the Lakers are entering, by far, the toughest two-week stretch of the season.
It starts on Sunday, March 1, where the Lakers are getting their fourth and final contest against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers did just defeat the Pelicans on Tuesday and are 3-0 against the team this year, but they still pose a threat and a potential loss on the schedule.
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This is the second leg of a road back-to-back and as we saw on Tuesday, Zion Williamson makes a world of difference for the Pelicans and makes them a tougher team to beat. The Lakers are the more talented team, but on the road in a back-to-back, the Pelicans could win this game.
The Lakers return home on Tuesday to take on the Philadelphia 76ers, who are fifth in the Eastern Conference. Ben Simmons will be out of action with a nerve impingement in his back and the 76ers have been pretty poor on the road this season.
Philadelphia has a staggering 28-2 home record but just a 9-21 road record. While that, mixed with Simmons being out, makes this game easier for the Lakers, the 76ers still pose quite the challenge. They are one of few teams in the league that have the size to go up against the Lakers with Joel Embiid, who plays better with Simmons off the court.
Then the Lakers get the toughest two-game stretch that is possible. The team is hosting the Milwaukee Bucks, who seem to be on a collision course to the NBA Finals, and are “on the road” against the Los Angeles Clippers, who are the Lakers’ biggest competition in the Western Conference.
The Lakers are a combined 0-3 against both teams. There is a world in which the Lakers win both of these games, but there is also a world in which they lose both of these games, knocking the team back down to earth some.
The one “break” of the two-week stretch is hosting the Brooklyn Nets on March 10th. The Nets are without Kyrie Irving so the Lakers should have no problem picking up a home victory.
Finally, to wrap up the two-week window, the Lakers get both the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets at home. The Rockets doubled down on going small this season by trading Clint Capela in a four-team trade for Robert Covington.
The Lakers will be able to figure the Rockets’ small ball tactics out in a seven-game series, but when catching them during a tough stretch like this, the unique style of play could absolutely catch LA off guard. Heck, Houston beat the Lakers in their first game without Capela after the trade.
The Nuggets are in town on Sunday, March 15. The Lakers are 2-1 against the Nuggets this season and match up well against the team, as they really do not have good defensive options to put on Anthony Davis nor LeBron James.
However, they are still the second-seed in the Western Conference for a reason, so this is absolutely a losable game for the Lakers.
The worst-case scenario for the Los Angeles Lakers in the next two weeks is to only win 1-2 games, which is unlikely, but not impossible. Realistically, the team just needs to go 4-3 in the next seven in order to keep a comfortable lead in the West, which is more than doable.
The one silver lining for the Los Angeles Lakers is after the Pelicans game, the team is playing at the Staples Center in six straight games. Hopefully, staying home for nearly two weeks will help the team overcome the tough two-week stretch.