Heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, most expected the Golden State Warriors to be the class of the Western Conference and likely win a fourth championship in the past five years. While they may ultimately claim a third consecutive title, the Warriors are currently middle of the pack in the conference.
With the season still in its early stages, 11 teams are within three games of first place in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers are part of that picture despite a 2-5 start to their season.
Kyle Kuzma believes the recent surge in coming away with wins figures to loom large down the stretch of the playoff race. “First seed through 11th is (separated) by 2.5 games or something like that. It’s pretty hard to win in the West,” he said.
“Every game, if it’s the fifth game of the year, or sixth, seventh, they all matter. Especially when you’re playing in the West, because by the time game 70 comes by, it’s going to be a crapshoot for who gets into the playoffs.”
The Lakers have missed the NBA Playoffs in five consecutive seasons, which is a drought most expected will be snapped now that LeBron James is leading the team. There’s plenty of time to decided which way that streak will go, but what’s clear is snapping it won’t come easy.
When asked if he can remember seeing so much parity or competition, Lakers head coach Luke Walton said, “Never.”
“Two out of first (place), two out of 13th, 14th, I mean it’s wild,” he added. “It’ll make for an entertaining and fun season.”
As the Warriors have dealt with injuries and internal turmoil, the Portland Trail Blazers, Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies have hovered at or near the top of the Western Conference standings. The Oklahoma City Thunder enter play Saturday with a share of first place.
Of the group, the Lakers have only faced the Trail Blazers, defeating them in two of three matchups. Meanwhile, Walton has been particularly impressed by the Grizzlies.
“They’re healthy and they’re doing a really good job of being who they are,” he said. “They play tough defense, they execute in the halfcourt. J.B. is doing a nice job out there.”