The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to keep their playoff hopes alive in a difficult season. Will a big win on the back of a huge play be enough to turn the tide for the Lakers season?
Los Angeles Lakers – Playoff Contenders or Pretenders?
Playoffs through the Play-In?
The Lakers sit in the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings. With a 30-41 record, Los Angeles finds themselves 26.5 games behind the first-place Phoenix Suns. They are also 10.5 games behind the sixth-place Denver Nuggets for the final guaranteed playoff spot. Simply put, if this team is going to be in the playoffs, it will be through the play-in tournament.
The Lakers have struggled throughout the season, especially in recent weeks. Los Angeles is 3-7 in their last 10 games. They had lost 11 straight road games prior to Russell Westbrook’s heroics in Toronto on Friday night. The Lakers are hoping that this inspirational win will turn things around here at the tail end of the regular season.
Tie it at the buzzer?
Why Not? pic.twitter.com/q50pxcP9F8
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 19, 2022
A Momentum Building Win?
Westbrook’s big steal and overtime-sealing three aren’t the only bright spots in the Lakers’ close win. This win featured a more balanced offensive attack, with both LeBron James and Westbrook putting up high point totals and five Lakers scoring in double figures. In the nine games before Friday’s matchup, the Lakers were 2-7, only winning the two games where LeBron James scored 50 points.
The win came at a crucial time for the short-handed Lakers. Anthony Davis appears to be nearing a return to action soon, but the Lakers pulled this one off without the All-Star. They were also missing Talen Horton-Tucker who was out with an ankle injury. Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington were also unavailable due to health and safety protocols. Despite all of this, the Lakers pulled together to steal a road win in overtime.
A Tough Road Ahead
If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to string together a run leading up to the playoffs, it should be enough to put us all on notice. This is simply due to the fact that 10 of the Lakers’ final 11 games are against teams that are currently in the postseason. There are barely any ‘easy’ games left.
This team needs to get healthy before the end of the season. Horton-Tucker is day-to-day and Davis will reportedly begin light, on-court activities on Monday. Los Angeles has been abysmal on the offensive end and their front-court liabilities are exponentially worse without Davis in the lineup.
Westbrook has been in a slump like never before seen in his career. Coming into Friday’s game, he was shooting below 20% from beyond the arc since the All-Star break. NBA Twitter had been full of ‘highlights’ consisting of poorly considered and heavily contested jumpers, often ending in an ugly miss. In fact, prior to his late-game heroics, the future Hall-of-Fame point guard had produced another one of these highlights, badly missing a clutch three off of an offensive rebound. Lakers fans and front office alike have to be hoping that this big moment is enough to ignite a spark in Westbrook, something that gets him back into form. The Lakers will need the Westbrook from last year’s playoff run in Washington if they are going to make it through the Play-in tournament.
Verdict – Los Angeles Lakers – Playoff Contenders or Pretenders?
What James has done in his 18th season is nothing short of miraculous. The 37-year-old is third in the league in scoring and has showcased his ability to play literally every position on the court. This year has seen James add to his long list of career achievements. Unfortunately, with the injuries that the Lakers have faced, paired with a roster that doesn’t gel, some have said that this is James’ worst team since the early-2000 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even if Davis gets back to full strength in time for the Play-in, this team just doesn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the big guns in the west. The Los Angeles Lakers are playoff pretenders.
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