As I write this I just finished watching the Lakers narrowly defeat the Warriors in a “play in” game which gave L.A. the all-important 7th seed in the upcoming playoffs. The contest was so close it had the feel of a 7th game of a championship series. In fact if the Staples Center had been sold out instead of the 6,000 fans that were allowed, the joint would have been rocking. Especially during the unbelievably dramatic ending.

With the shot clock running out and the score tied, LeBron James, with Stephen Curry’s hand in his face, made a seemingly impossible buzzer beater 3-pointer. This despite an eye injury shortly before that left LeBron’s vision so blurry he admitted, “I saw three rims so I just aimed for the middle one.”

Many people objected to the “Play In Tournament” including LeBron who commented, “The guy who came up with this should be fired.” And yet all would have to admit it made for riveting TV. (The game was so tense I thought to myself, “I’m getting way too old for this.”)

If the Lakers had lost, and they easily could have or maybe even should have, they would have had one more chance to gain the 8th seed. I won’t bore you with the downside of that scenario and their hopes to advance in their long shot goal to win their second straight NBA Championship. As it is, on Sunday they will play game #1 of their first round 7-game series with the 2nd seed Phoenix Suns. (Adding to the drama, it will represent the first time in NBA playoff history that a 7th seed will be favored to beat the 2nd seed.)

No matter the victory over the Warriors, realistically LeBron and Anthony Davis did not have great games and neither did the role players, except perhaps for Alex Caruso. So how did the Lakers win?  A huge factor was the excellent defense designed by coach Frank Vogel who I admit would not have been my first choice when he was hired for the 2019 season though I changed my mind very soon.

Or was it G.M. Rob Pelinka acquiring talented bench players? Admission #2, I wasn’t thrilled with Pelinka’s ascension to G.M. when Magic Johnson resigned before the final game of the 2018-2019 season. Kobe’s former agent, Pelinka seemed phony to me and also looked too much like Rob Lowe. (But I stand corrected, even though I’m sitting as I write this.)

Or was it Jeanie Buss’s solid, no drama ownership? (Except for recently leaving out Jerry West in favor of Phil Jackson in her “Top 5 Most Important Lakers” in their storied history.) Or maybe there’s another factor to consider?

Forgive my superstitious notions if I suggest, as I did two weeks ago, we can’t overlook  the Sports Gods that can help or also turn on your team on a dime. (Which is an expression that goes back to 1880 when a dime, worth $2.60 in today’s money, was and still is the smallest coin in our currency and means a reversal of circumstances could happen almost instantly.)

As an example, take the Dodgers.  As noted here two weeks ago, I foolishly gloated over the Dodgers’ remarkable 13-2 start to the season and possibly offended the Sports Gods. (I know I sound crazy but what else is new.) Then came the “turning on the dime” and the Dodgers lost 15 of their next 19 games. In my last column, I tried to humbly apologize to the Gods and it seemed to be working. That is until just the other day when Dodger shortstop and World Series MVP, Corey Seager, was hit by a pitch, fracturing his wrist leaving him sidelined for at least 30 days. Ouch.

The L.A. Angels might also have received an unwelcome visit from the Sports Gods. Center fielder Mike Trout, 3-time American League MVP and 8-time Silver Slugger winner,  suffered a serious calf strain and may be out for 6-8 weeks. How valuable is Trout? In 2019 he signed a 12-year contract extension for $426.5 million. With Trout on the injured list, the Angels chances of making the playoffs might have gone from slim to none. (As the late sportscaster Jim Healy used to say, “And Slim just left town.”)

Of course injuries are part of all sports and I’m not insisting there’s such a thing as the Sports Gods. But, on the off chance there is, it can’t hurt to stay on their good side. You can decide what you think by going to YouTube and typing “Laker-Warrior Play In Game highlights,” and focus on the dramatic last few minutes.  

Controversial ESPN sports analyst Stephen A. Smith says, “The Lakers were damn lucky to win.” (Or, maybe it was the Sports Gods?)

Game #1 of the Lakers-Suns first round playoffs at Phoenix Suns Arena will be televised on Sunday, May 23 at 12:30 pm on ABC. Jack’s next Laughing Matters will appear on Friday, May 29th but, sadly, will not be televised. Jack can be reached at: