The Los Angeles Lakers are on a downward trend and are sliding in the Western Conference standings ahead of the NBA Playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers have lost three straight games heading into Monday, and LeBron James is now out again as he nurses a lingering ankle injury. That is concerning news as the postseason approaches.
The Lakers are just out of the play-in tournament as the No. 6 seed in the West. However, they have the same record as the No. 7-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. A longer slide is possible considering their upcoming schedule, and some fans may be worried about the possibility of missing the playoffs entirely.
Is that something that can happen?
Lakers still on track for the 2021 postseason
The addition of the play-in tournament actually works in the Lakers’ favor this year. The team is currently 3.5 games ahead of the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies, but panic could set in if not for the extra two spots.
The Lakers know they can take down any team in the West when healthy. The seed won’t matter, and some background on James’ teams in the past sheds some light on why panic isn’t necessary just yet.
This remaining time in the regular season should be focused on getting Anthony Davis back to his usual level of play. He has struggled mightily since returning from his own injury.
Over 16 points per game is good for most players. However, Davis is counted on to be a legitimate, efficient superstar alongside James. That is even more true when the latter is absent and dealing with an ankle injury.
Add in Dennis Schroder missing two weeks because of health and safety protocols and this Lakers team is struggling to become whole again. The good news is that they are still seven games ahead of the No. 11-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. So missing the playoffs is just not going to happen unless they lose in the play-in round.
Getting the Lakers in the play-in tournament may end up being the best possible outcome for the NBA. It would add intrigue and also allow the team to have some do-or-die games early on, and it’s hard to bet against LeBron and AD in that kind of scenario unless they’re on the sidelines. Assuming they advance, they would have a head start on the top teams in the West in terms of a playoff mindset.
The Lakers are not going to miss the postseason. That reality should mean they focus on getting back to full strength, as much as possible, before the regular season ends. James doesn’t have to play hurt, and the focus should be on playing into the month of July no matter where they end up in the Western Conference seeding.