Lakers 5 storylines: Path to playoffs is brief and tough

LeBron James held the microphone whereas addressing the media Sunday earlier than the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, specializing in what’s forward for the Lakers.

“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career for a regular season,” James stated. “And, it’s the type of mindset that I have and I hope the guys will have coming off the break.”

The Lakers have 23 video games left to place themselves in playoff place. They are 27-32 and thirteenth within the powerful Western Conference. They start their march towards the postseason Thursday in opposition to the Golden State Warriors at Arena.

Here are 5 story traces for the remainder of the Lakers’ season:

No time to lose

The Lakers’ view all season seemingly has been that they’re very near a top-10 spot for the play-in event and practically as near a top-six spot for an automated berth within the playoffs.

The actuality is the Lakers are on the surface wanting in and have loads of floor to make up and never a lot time to make a transfer.

“Like I told them, we have no more time, no more days, no more games to waste,” coach Darvin Ham stated final week after his group defeated the New Orleans Pelicans. “We got to take care of what’s in front of us and put our best foot forward every time we go out there. … Take the wisdom and lessons from the wins and losses we’ve got up to this point and realize we’re still in a position to make something happen and secure a postseason spot. We just have to go out and do it. We can’t keep talking about it. Games are getting short [and] the amount of games are dwindling rapidly.”

The well being of ahead Anthony Davis and the rotations utilized by coach Darvin Ham are two of the important thing storylines for the Lakers’ ultimate 23 video games of the common season.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers are two video games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the tenth spot within the West and 3½ video games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the sixth place.

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The Lakers should climb over Portland, Utah and Oklahoma City to be one of many prime 10 groups and likewise climb previous Golden State, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas to safe a top-six spot.

The Lakers play 13 of their ultimate 23 video games at house and their remaining schedule is ranked the sixth best.

Stay wholesome

The well being of James and Anthony Davis is clearly important for the Lakers.

James has been coping with a sore left ankle and foot that didn’t stop him from taking part in within the All-Star Game. He did maintain a contusion on his proper hand when he tried to dam a shot and his finger struck the rim.

James didn’t play within the second half, saying it was precautionary and that “I’ll be fine.”

Davis missed 20 video games with a proper foot damage however performed in 10 video games as much as the All-Star break. Over that point, he averaged 22.5 factors, 12.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.7 blocks and shot 48.6% from the sector. The consensus amongst observers is that Davis has to change into an even bigger drive and keep wholesome for the Lakers to have success.

Play protection

The Lakers have to start out taking part in higher protection. They are giving up 118.2 factors per sport, rating them close to the underside within the 30-team NBA at twenty sixth. They are ranked 18th in defensive ranking (113.9 factors per 100 possessions).

The Lakers have excellent defenders in Davis, Dennis Schroder and Jarred Vanderbilt, however the group has to work collectively to get the job performed.

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Come collectively

The Lakers have acquired six new gamers within the final month, and it is going to be vital to include them into the combination.

Lakers guard Malik Beasley claps his hands in celebration after scoring against the Pelicans.

Lakers guard Malik Beasley claps his palms in celebration after scoring in opposition to the Pelicans final week.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Point guard D’Angelo Russell, guards Malik Beasley and Davon Reed, forwards Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura, and heart Mo Bamba all have proven indicators of with the ability to match into what the Lakers need to do.

Figure out rotations

It most likely will assist the Lakers if they’ve a constant rotation down the stretch.

In the final sport in opposition to the Pelicans, Ham began Russell and Beasley within the backcourt, James and Vanderbilt at ahead and Davis at heart.

Schroder, Austin Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., Hachimura and Bamba got here off the bench to play vital minutes.

“It was just about trying to create as much balance as we possibly could,” Ham stated. “It was the same thought process at the beginning of the year. And there’s gonna be games where Dennis and DLo [Russell] finish together. But I think just moving Dennis to that second unit along with Troy and Rui, those guys have a great symmetry together. Our new guys that have come in, particularly Beas, DLo and Vando, and putting those guys with Bron and A, and it worked out. I thought we had a well-balanced attack.”