Daily Archives: February 12, 2008

why the lakers will win the pacific division

in all the talk about the relative strength of the top five or six or seven teams in the west right now, one thing’s been left out of the discussion that makes the lakers the top bet to win the pacific division regular season title…strength of schedule (remaining). the lakers, as of today (monday feb 11) standing at 33-17, have already played the majority of the games against the toughest teams on their schedule…far more than any other west contender.

consider: the lakers have already played each of the top eastern teams twice, with no more left for the season. if you’re keeping score, that’s boston (losing twice), detroit (split), and orlando (split)…they’ve also finished up with cleveland (losing twice). out west, they’ve played san antonio three of the four times they’ll see them (losing two of three), phoenix three of four (winning two of three), utah three of four (winning twice), and new orleans two of four (split). the only top team they still have more games left with than they’ve played so far is dallas, with whom they’ve completed one of four meetings this year (a loss). in fact, if you take the losses against those 9 teams (boston, detroit, orlando, cleveland, phoenix, san antonio, utah, new orleans, and dallas), they account for 12 of the lakers 17 losses against 8 wins, leaving the lake show 25-5 against the rest of the league. they’ve got seven games left the rest of the way against those nine top teams…

correction (2-13-08): the numbers posted above are in error…the lakers have eight games remaining with the top western and eastern teams listed, not seven…the remaining games are phoenix (1), new orleans (2), dallas (3), san antonio (1), utah (1), boston (0), detroit (0), orlando (0), cleveland (0)…my apologies…

compare that to phoenix for example, two games ahead of the lakers in the loss column, who still have to play boston twice, detroit twice, san antonio twice, dallas twice, new orleans once, the lakers once, and utah once…that’s eleven games against the top teams, compared to the eight the lakers have to play…that two game margin in the loss column suddenly doesn’t look so daunting…

oh, wait, you say, what about the exploding, self-imploding cigar known as the denver nuggets…i left them out…quite right…well, here’s the tally…the lakers have zero games left against the rocks, having won all three of their meetings, while the suns still must face them three times, if that worries you (it shouldn’t).

the schedule story looks about the same for the other west powers…games against the top three in the east plus cleveland, and the top seven in the west (phoenix, new orleans, dallas, san antonio, lakers, utah, denver) look like this:

games remaining to play against top powers:

phoenix (14), new orleans (14), dallas (13), san antonio (15), lakers (8), utah (12), denver (12)

update (12:50 am PST 2/13/08) – the analysis above sparked gts at insidehoops to analyze the skedj of the top 9 west teams, comparing how many more times they’ll play each other…you can read it here. however, he claims that i’ve left opponents out of the lakers count that i included in the count for other teams…i checked it a couple of times and i don’t think so (see correction above, however…apparently i did miscount by one)…anyhow, it’s a choose your bias kind of call, since though he includes two more west teams (gs, hou), he leaves out the leastern powers, incl. boston and detroit who are at least the equal of any team in the west…of course, i’ve included orlando and cleveland in the count, and it’s a fair argument that gs and houston are in their class (hell, portland too, probably)…that said, i don’t see either gs or houston taking the conf, though either one is, i think, equal to denver in degree of difficulty. i included denver in the final count because they had fewer than 20 losses when i wrote it, which was the cutoff i used to determine the top west teams…i agree, though, that denver’s not any stronger than either gs or houston (sry nug fans…no disrespect, it just is what it is) though all are strong teams playing well…anyhow, check him out…the two takes together create a pretty good snapshot of the situation…there are a whole bunch of different ways to count it up, but if you just scan the schedules of the top teams, it jumps out at you, however you want to tally it…the question of *how much* of an advantage the lakers have does depend on your perceptions of who is truly strong, but the lakers look good any way you look at it…doesn’t mean they’ll win, but you have to like their chances…