Would the Lakers change their approach if playoffs were like the NCAA tournament?
This was a topic that NBA TV's Kyle Montgomery, Dennis Scott and Brent Barry brought up when they were mulling over an imaginary NBA bracket that resembled more the format of the NCAA tournament.
That means there were no playoff series and all the seedings were based on overall record. Thankfully, the team's RPI and strength of schedule didn't come into play, or else they would've had a really long show. The Lakers were ranked first in the West Regional bracket, earned a first-round bye, defeated Charlotte in the "Sweet 16," won against Phoenix in the "Elite 8" and then faced Orlando in the "Final Four."
That's when an interesting debate came up. Scott and Barry chose the Magic (52-22) to advance because of its 8-2 mark in the last 10 games, including recent victories against the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs. That's when Montgomery interjected
"We're not talking about the Lakers that take a night off," Montgomery said. "We're talking about the Lakers that play full steam ahead."
Still, Scott and Barry remained unsure because of Andrew Bynum's strained left Achilles' tendon, which has kept him sidelined for the last five games. Nonetheless, Montgomery's point had me wondering if the Lakers' lack of urgency is partly rooted in the fact that the NBA's playoff format involves best-of-seven series.
If the Lakers played in an NCAA tournament format last season, they'd be nowhere close to winning an NBA title with their Game 1 Western Conference Semifinal loss to Houston. While the chances of an upset increase dramatically in the NCAA tournament, I'd actually think the Lakers would play better basketball under that format. That wouldn't mean they would be more successful given the more unpredictable nature of a single-elimination tournament, but you would be seeing the Lakers at their peak.
That also got me wondering if that's the reason why some fans still remain optimistic about the Lakers, even through their sluggish performances this month. Do you think it's not necessary for them to look sharp as the season winds down because they can just save that for a playoff series that goes at least four games? Would you be more concerned about the Lakers if they played in a single-elimination tournament?
All these questions are pretty open-ended. So rather than run a poll, I'll leave the floor open for everyone to share in the comments section below.
-- Mark Medina
Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org