Stephen Curry to miss 4-6 weeks with a high left ankle sprain. Curry has averaged 25.8 PPG and 8.8 APG. In his absence, the Warriors will lean on PG Shabazz Napier to help carry Golden State to the regular season finish line. Nappier has big shoes to fill (and won’t). He’s averaged just 1.5 PPG and has never started.
Klay Thompson who is second on the team with 17.4 PPG will need to raise his game down the stretch. With 14 games remaining, the Warriors are 3.5 games ahead of 3rd lace Memphis and 5 games ahead of Phoenix. Unless the Warriors experience a total collapse, they will finish in the top four and earn home court advantage in the first round against the 5th, 6th, or 7th seed.
The loss of Donovan Mitchell is being felt more than ever. Utah has lost four straight and fell further behind the Kings who hold the final playoff spot in the West.
The Pelicans are happy about the exodus of top players leaving the Western Conference. Paul George’s departure for Toronto ensures the Clippers will be a non-factor this postseason.
A key battle to watch down the stretch is the jockeying of teams for 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Memphis and Denver would like to hold on to their home court advantages (if they make the playoffs). Also, can Utah hold on in spite of losing Donovan Mitchell for the season?
New Orleans Pelicans (44-15, —)
Golden State Warriors (37-21, -6.5)
Memphis Grizzlies (34-25, -10.0)
Denver Nuggets (32-26, -11.5)
Los Angeles Lakers (32-26, -11.5)
Dallas Mavericks (31-27, -12.5)
Phoenix Suns (31-27, -12.5)
Utah Jazz (30-29, -14.0)
Sacramento Kings (28-31, -16.0)
The 5th-place LA Lakers have won five straight games. In early March, the then 8th-place Lakers were only 1.5 games safe inside the playoff picture. They regrouped and moved up three spots and are looking strong. Last playoffs, they entered as the 5th seed but were eliminated by 4th-seed Dallas Mavericks in seven games.
On March 5, Los Angeles acquired PG Mike Conley (17.1) from Orlando in a trade that sent SG Ted Andrews and a ’23 2nd Round pick to the Hornets. Andrews was the Lakers 2nd-round/5th pick in the 2021 draft.
LAL team leaders:
C Antony Davis, 26.4 PPG, 9.8 RPG
SF Lebron James, 25.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.8 APG
Since a quick start to their season, Utah has hovered near the bottom of the Western Conference, and staying in the playoff picture will now get tougher. Donovan Mitchell was lost for the season with a torn right ACL. The same injury will keep PF Bojan Bogdanovic out for another 2-4 weeks. The club has also struggled on defense (-2.2 PT DIFF). If the Jazz stumble, the 9th-place Sacramento Kings (2.0 games behind Utah) could move up.
7 – Phoenix Suns, 31-27, -12.5
8 – Utah Jazz, 30-29, -14.0
9 – Sacramento Kings, 28-31, -16.0