Eastern Conference threats to the Los Angeles Lakers
The Eastern Conference has been extremely fun to watch so far this season, with a lot of unexpected teams fighting for the top seeds early in the season. It is very possible that the biggest threat to the Lakers could end up coming from the East and not the West for once.
Despite losing on Wednesday night to the East’s current top team, the Philadelphia 76ers, they still aren’t the biggest obstacle for the Lakers.
The Lakers recently beat the Bucks on January 21st, 113-106, but it was not an easy game to win. The Lakers forced Bucks superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo to have nine turnovers in his 35 minutes of play, which is more than double his current 4.0 turnovers per game average.
The Lakers also shot 19-37 from three-point range, 13 of which came from LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. As great as the Lakers did defend Antetokounmpo and shooting the ball, they won’t be able to rely on crazy performances like that in a potential NBA Finals matchup against the Bucks.
The Bucks are the one team in the East that matches up almost perfectly against the Lakers, rather than the newly constructed Brooklyn Nets.
It’s almost impossible to come up with a shortlist like this and not include the Brooklyn Nets as even a possibility. However, despite their lethal firepower, this team does have major flaws that they would need to address before they have a real shot at the defending champs.
The Nets have given up an average of 128 points a game in the four games their “Big 3” of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving have played together. Even worse is the fact that all four of those games were against injured teams at, or below the .500 win percentage mark.
The Cleveland Cavaliers recently put up 147 points in a double-overtime win against the Nets, while having the 29th ranked offense in the league. Brooklyn’s goal is pretty much to score 120 points every night and hope their bad defense doesn’t give up 130.
Now, there’s no doubt that the Brooklyn Nets are an offensive nightmare for a majority of the top teams out East, including Milwaukee, but because of their defensive holes, it is more likely that the Lakers’ relatively strong offense would be difficult for the Nets to overcome.
The Lakers still have yet to play against the new Brooklyn Nets, which will be a very exciting matchup on February 18th. The purple and gold will travel to TD Garden this weekend on Saturday to play the Boston Celtics, another one of the top dogs in the Eastern Conference.
We could end up seeing the Boston Celtics step up as a major threat as well, but for now, they’re still behind the Nets, assuming the team makes improvements over the next couple of months.
As of right now, the Milwaukee Bucks have proven to be the biggest threat in the East to the Laker’s championship aspirations with multiple players to help Antetokounmpo that he didn’t have last year.
Talent-wise the Brooklyn Nets should be blowing out some of their opponents, but because of their current defensive situation, they’re not. The stamina for their stars can potentially become a major issue if they have to keep playing so many minutes every game.
Kevin Durant is having an amazing comeback season, putting up numbers close to his 2014 MVP campaign, but he is still coming off an Achilles injury. If he has to continue playing close to 50 minutes as he did against Cleveland, then the Nets are going to burn out quicker than most people realize.
With a long season left to play, things can change over the next couple of weeks, but for now, the answer is the Milwaukee Bucks.