Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Lakers still have plenty of work to do before the grind of the regular season is officially over. Despite going 3-7 in their last 10 games, including absorbing a humbling three-game losing streak, the Lakers have not been mathematically eliminated from postseason play. But they are sure as heck close to it with 18 games remaining on their schedule.
Currently sitting in the No. 10 pole in the Western Conference and trying to get to that No. 8 seed to make it in, the Lakers took a tumble in their playoff quest with back-to-back-to-back defeats to the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers. Losing to the Bucks on Friday night at Staples Center is no shame on the Lakers. The Bucks sit atop the Eastern Conference and has posted the NBA’s best record thus far.
Dropping games to the Suns and Clippers might be a little different, considering that that the Lakers should be in desperation mode out on the floor. Yes, the Lakers did not have Brandon Ingram, Lance Stephenson, and Tyson Chandler on the floor against the Clippers, who is the No. 8 team in the Western Conference. That, however, is not going to hold water in the grand scheme of things when the final standings are evaluated.
The Lakers need to win. Now and and until the regular season has concluded. That means essentially winning all or near all of the remaining games on their schedule, which includes dates with the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, and the Bucks again.
With that said, don’t expect Lakers coach Luke Walton and his team to concede anything. That includes choosing not to reflect on a promising season that has so far gone in a different direction than anyone associated with the ballclub could have imagined..
“No, because it doesn’t change what our reality is,” Walton said. “We’ve got to come in tomorrow and we got practice. We are going to watch film on tonight’s game,and it’s our job to get better tomorrow. It’s our job to play again on Wednesday. I always take time after the season to reflect on what is happening and what we could do better and what we did well and how the season played out. We’ve got too much work to do to start reflecting right now.”
If the Lakers do miss the playoffs it won’t be because Lebron James is not trying to push them there. James, who made the move from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference in the offseason when he joined the Lakers, is doing just about everything humanly possible to get the Lakers in position to make it to the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the loaded Western Conference has stacked its chips against James and the undermanned Lakers. It hasn’t helped that key players like James, Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, as well as Ingram has been in and out of the lineup for extended periods during the season.
You can add Kyle Kuzma, the young Lakers forward, to that list as well. Kuzma went down with an ankle injury late in the Lakers’ 113-105 defeat to the Clippers. After the game, the Lakers played on the injury bug as a mitigating factor in how their season has played out. When asked about it, James said the maladies have just piled up on top of other things.
“Yeah pretty much,” James said. “I haven’t been a part of a season with this amount of injuries to all our key guys. Our big, big key guys. It’s just the way the season has been. We’ve had guys step up. Josh stepped up in his [Kuzma’s] absence tonight. It was great to see Josh play well again. For us, we prided ourselves on our depth to start the season, on how we can be good in our first unit and second unit. And obviously our depth has dwindled over the
course of the season because of injuries.”
Led by Danilo Gallinari’s 23 points, the Clippers used a balanced attack with six players scoring in double figures to post a 113-105 win against the Lakers. James logged just over 42 minutes of playing action to score 27 points. He also added eight rebounds and six assists in the Lakers’ 34th defeat (30-34) of the season. If there was a shining light for the Lakers in the defeat, it was Rondo, who posted a triple-double, going for 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
“The ball bounced my way,” Rondo said. “I tried to come in with energy. I made a couple shots. Like I said, guys made shots for the assists and, as far as rebounding, I tried to get to the right spots at the right time and go grab some boards for the bigs.”