In case you didn’t already know these upcoming final 23 games of the regular season for the Lakers are important, just read this quote from LeBron James when asked about it: “It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for regular season. That’s the type of mindset that I have and I hope the guys will have coming out of the break.” The Lakers currently sit 2 games behind the 10th seed and a play-in birth, and 3.5 games back of the 6th seed and a guaranteed playoff spot. While that seems like a obstacle a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis can overcome, there’s a lot of variables the Lakers will still need to go their way.
The Lakers will certainly have a chance to get into the playoffs the simple way; win games against the teams ahead of them. Of their 23 remaining games, 14 of them are against teams within the 6-12 seed range the Lakers are chasing. If the Lakers can win, say, 10 of those games while staying steady against the other teams they face, an ideal seeding would be in their future. However, having the Lakers perform consistently this season has been easier said then done. LeBron James ankle injury continues to linger and Anthony Davis health is never guaranteed. James says he plans to play all 23 games but his body may decide differently and, if it does, the Lakers are in trouble.
Not every problem the Lakers may face is internal, however. Almost every team directly ahead of them in the standings got a whole lot better (like the Lakers did, to be fair) during the trade deadline. The 6 seeded Mavs added superstar PG Kyrie Irving, the 9 seeded Warriors added Gary Payton II back and while he may be out for most of the remainder of the regular season, having him guarding D’Angelo Russell in a play-in elimination game would not be ideal. In addition, teams at the top of the west such as the Nuggets, Clippers, and Suns also improved their roster and would prove to be a tough first round matchup for the purple and gold. All this means the Lakers can’t just be good, they have to be great. Hoping these teams with this much talent go on a losing streak and open the door for them is not a viable strategy, they must break the door down themselves.
The odds may be slightly stacked against the Lakers but it’s important to remember they have the ultimate equalizer; LeBron James. Hopefully, with the king on his throne and help from Anthony Davis as well as the new trade deadline acquisitions, the Lakers can get into the playoffs, reset, and go chase banner number 18.
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