Los Angeles Lakers Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of April
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After surging back into playoff contention, the Los Angeles Lakers are stumbling their way to the finish line. The team has now lost three of their last four games.
However, the Lakers still have the month of April to right the ship…or sink along with it.
Needless to say, this race could come down to the final day of the regular season.
The Lakers have a total of eight games scheduled in April. Luckily, six of those are at home. On the other hand, six of those are also against teams with plus-.500 records.
Do Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles teammates have enough left in the tank to overcome the odds and put together another run in the postseason? Or will the rising injury toll be too much for the team to handle?
*For the purposes of this article, the record projection will be based off the assumption that the March 30 game against the Sacramento Kings will result in a victory.
April 2: Home vs. Dallas Mavericks
Notwitzki (center) could put a real damper on L.A.'s playoff hopes.
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This matchup could either be a blessing or a curse.
Win and the Lakers increase their lead over the Mavericks to two-and-a-half games with seven games left. Lose and Dallas creeps to within a game, making the battle for eighth even more of a three-team race.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, this contest takes place inside the friendly confines of the Staples Center. The Lakers have won seven of their last eight games at home.
However, it’s never quite that simple with the Mavericks.
Dallas began March seven games under .500 and was considered out of playoff contention. But after winning nine of its last 12, the team is very much back in the hunt.
Dirk Nowitzki has been a large catalyst for the Mavs' turnaround.
Over his last 10 games, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP has averaged 20.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Nowitzki has willed the Mavericks to victory time and time again over this stretch. This game should be no exception.
Did we mention that the Lakers—already missing Metta World Peace—may also be without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash (via ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin) for this matchup?
Los Angeles has won eight of its last nine regular-season games against the Mavericks dating back to 2011. But don’t expect this game to follow suit.
Prediction: L, 105-95
April 5: Home vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Randolph has had little success recently.
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Following a tough loss, the Lakers matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies might be just the right remedy.
Although 47-24, the Grizzlies are not a threat to be scorching off the nets. The team ranks No. 26 in the league in points per game, averaging 93.6.
It certainly doesn't help Memphis’ cause that Marc Gasol is dealing with an abdomen injury and Zach Randolph has struggled lately—11.4 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting over the last five games. As a result, the team has dropped three of its last four, including losses to the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets.
Throw in the fact that Los Angeles will be coming off a couple days of rest and it’s a disaster waiting to happen for the Grizzlies, especially with the Black Mamba in uniform.
In 10 games following two days of rest, Bryant has averaged 31.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He’s also shot 45.6 percent from the field during such games.
Los Angeles is winless in its two previous matchups with Memphis this season. Expect that to change.
Prediction: W, 108-99
April 7: Away vs. Los Angeles Clippers
It will be essential for the Lakers to slow down Griffin (left).
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The Los Angeles Clippers have practically kicked the Lakers out of the Staples Center this season, including three victories by an average margin of 13 points. It marks the first time the Clippers have won the season series with their cross-town rivals since 1993.
This time around, the Clippers will have the opportunity to kick the Lakers out of the postseason.
However, the Clippers haven’t dealt with this version of Dwight Howard yet.
Over the last 10 games, Howard is averaging 18.4 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks over 37.4 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 55.7 percent from the floor.
In a game that will likely be decided inside the paint—the Clippers rank fifth in the league in points in the paint per game—Howard’s presence will be needed to contain Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan down low. The duo combine for 27.2 points per game.
Expect Howard to explode for 30 points in this one, putting the Lakers on his back to deliver a critical victory.
Prediction: W, 115-110
April 9: Home vs. New Orleans Hornets
It's been a long season for Davis and the struggling Hornets.
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Los Angeles has definitely struggled in recent years.
However, beating the New Orleans Hornets is something the team has excelled at.
The Lakers have won all three meetings with the Hornets this season. They have won seven straight matchups and 10 of the last 11. Furthermore, the last time New Orleans won in Los Angeles was back in 2009.
What reasons do the Hornets have to even think they have a chance in this game?
Then again, the Lakers did have to rely on 42 points from Bryant and a furious fourth-quarter rally to put these guys away last time out.
Nope. Still not buying it.
Prediction: W, 115-98
April 10: Away vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers have had the Lakers' number in Portland.
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It’s no secret that Los Angeles doesn't like playing on the road. The team is 14-24 away from the Staples Center this season.
But the Lakers really don’t like playing in Portland.
Los Angeles has lost three straight to the Trail Blazers on the road. That includes a dismal mark of 2-12 since 2005.
It’s the recipe for a perfect storm.
Then again, the Lakers do have superstar Kobe Bryant.
In three games against Portland this season, Bryant has averaged 32.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He’s also shot 55.7 percent from the field.
However, Los Angeles hasn't been too great at stringing together a large number of wins this season. The team has only won four or more games straight twice.
The three-game winning streak comes to an end here.
Prediction: L, 97-91
April 12: Home vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have been clueless in finding an answer to stop the Lakers in recent years.
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The Lakers will begin a tough three-game stretch to close out the season against the Golden State Warriors. Luckily, it’s a team that Los Angeles has handled rather easily over the years.
Since 2008, the Lakers are 16-2 against the Warriors. That includes two victories already this season.
Not to mention, Golden State has not been playing its best basketball as of late.
After starting the season 30-17, the Warriors have gone just 11-15. They have endured losing streaks of six and four games during the stretch.
Throw in the fact that they play the Oklahoma City Thunder the night before and Los Angeles looks like the odds on favorite.
Look for the Lakers to pick apart Golden State’s lousy defense—the team allows 100.2 points per game—and run away with this one early.
Prediction: W, 119-108
April 14: Home vs. San Antonio Spurs
There's no love lost between the Spurs and Lakers.
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Every year it seems the Western Conference playoffs go through the San Antonio Spurs, so it only makes sense for Los Angeles to have to go through the Spurs to qualify for the postseason.
Luckily for the Lakers, they only need to play them once…for now.
San Antonio has played as well as anyone this season, scoring points in bunches and making opponents work for every point. Furthermore, no team has moved the ball more fluidly this season—the Spurs lead the league with 25.1 assists per game.
Los Angeles has played San Antonio twice this year, losing both times. In fact, the Lakers have lost the last four between the two teams.
At full strength, Los Angeles might have a fighting chance to compete with the Spurs on the court. But with the team’s injury list only growing with every passing week? Not a chance.
The Lakers' only chance of victory is if San Antonio has clinched home-court advantage and decides to rest starters.
But with the possibility of a fine from David Stern looming, don’t expect it.
Prediction: L, 105-89
April 17: Home vs. Houston Rockets
Expect Harden to make it rain in this contest.
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The Houston Rockets have been one of the streakiest teams in the NBA this season.
After winning 10 of 12 games earlier in the season, they followed that up by losing seven straight and eight of nine. There’s no telling which Rockets team Los Angeles will face by this point.
If Houston were to embark on another losing streak, this game might even decide who captures the seventh seed in the West; the Rockets currently hold a three-game lead over the Lakers.
If Los Angeles hasn't secured a playoff spot by this point, expect Bryant to go off even if he has to suit up in a wheel chair with an IV attached to him.
Expect a back-and-forth shootout between James Harden and Bryant. Both will likely top 30 points each, and maybe even 30 shots.
It will be a close affair, but with everything on the line, it’s just too hard to bet against the Black Mamba.
The Lakers pull out a close victory and secure a trip to the postseason.
Prediction: W, 107-106