Austin Rivers on ‘dangerous’ Lakers: ‘This is not a team you wanna play 1st round’

Jesse Cinquini
6 Min Read
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

One former NBA player in Austin Rivers said that the Los Angeles Lakers have a shot at reaching the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row if the team doesn’t cross paths with the Denver Nuggets at any point during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“I mean, this is exactly what we wanted to see,” Rivers said when asked how far the Lakers can advance in the playoffs. “We wanted to see the Lakers play this type of basketball early in the season. You look at their starting lineup. Numbers were spread out across the board, [Austin] Reaves, [D’Angelo] Russell, [Anthony] Davis, [Rui] Hachimura, LeBron James rounding it out.

“They were all dominant last night. I don’t wanna take too much from it. They played probably the worst defense that I’ve seen in 10, 15 years. The Washington Wizards are a team that you really go out there to get your confidence versus at this point. But this is what we wanna on the Lakers’ side. We wanna see this team compete and play at a high level. And they are dangerous. This is not a team you wanna play first round in the NBA Playoffs.”

Rivers explained to ESPN’s Mike Greenberg why he thinks the Lakers could be a dangerous team when the playoffs begin later this month.

“Listen, barring no injury, I agree with you,” Rivers said in response to Greenberg proclaiming that the Nuggets are the sole team in the Western Conference that the Lakers can’t beat in a playoff series. “This is a team that has vast playoff experience when we talk about even LeBron James and Anthony Davis alone. We’ve seen this duo go to the mountaintop and win a championship, even if it was in the bubble. We saw them last year get all the way to the conference finals.”

Furthermore, Rivers praised the complementary players that the Lakers have around James and Davis.

“They have a wide variety of good role players around them that have stepped up,” Rivers continued. “Look at last game — or last night for example. D-Lo, Hachimura, Austin Reaves, all these guys in double digits. They have guys who can come off the bench and score. When you look at the teams that are at the top of the West, when we talk OKC (Oklahoma City Thunder), Minnesota.

“These are young teams who don’t have that experience. These are teams that anybody and everybody I think sees the Lakers being able to compete, not only compete but beat. The only team ahead of them that we know they cannot beat is Denver. So as long as they don’t match up with them, and if they’re able to get out of this play-in, I think the Lakers could make a realistic run back to the conference finals.”

The Lakers have now won their last three games after taking care of business against the Wizards on Wednesday. Players up and down the lineup contributed from a scoring perspective for the team, considering five of them dropped 16-plus points for the storied franchise.

Davis spearheaded Los Angeles’ offensive attack with a team-high 35 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and 15-of-15 from the charity stripe. He has now scored 20 or more points in each of his past eight games with the Lakers.

With a mere five games left to play in their regular-season schedule, the Lakers are 11 games above the .500 mark with a respectable record of 44-33. Despite the fact that the 2023-24 regular season will come to an end soon, Los Angeles still has the potential to put together a meteoric rise up the Western Conference standings before the campaign concludes.

The Lakers own the No. 9 in the conference currently but could realistically end up as high as the No. 5 seed if they finish the season off strong, considering the Dallas Mavericks are only two games ahead of the team in the standings.

Fortunately for the iconic organization, three of the Lakers’ final five games of the regular season will take place at Arena. Los Angeles has been a tough out at home this season, considering the team boasts a home record of 27-12 compared to a 17-21 road record.

The very last game of Los Angeles’ 82-game slate is a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans on April 14.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.