After dropping a road game to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves facing the very real chance that they do not make the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. On a night that saw a LeBron James triple-double, a 30 point outing from Brandon Ingram, and an efficient 22 points from Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers still somehow found a way to lose.
Despite a strong night from the starting cast, the Lakers lacked any sort of production from the bench and were unable to score when relying on their bench unit. With no bench player scoring in the double figures and a negative net rating across the board, the Lakers bench repeatedly gave up big runs to the Grizzlies that allowed them to control the game from wire to wire.
LeBron James was critical of teammates in the loss as they dropped another winable game late.
Updated Lakers’ Playoff Chances
With the loss, the Lakers fall to 29-31 and sit 3 games out of the 8th seed with 22 games to go. The Lakers have one of the tougher remaining schedules in the league and end the season with a brutal five-game stretch involving the Thunder, Warriors, Clippers, Jazz, and Blazers.
Looking at FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projections, we can see that the loss lowered the Laker’s playoff odds from 21% down to 19%. Despite being at such a low number, the CARMELO projection is relatively lenient on the Lakers. FiveThirtyEight’s ELO forecast has the Lakers at an abysmal 6%. Despite the CARMELO projection being slightly more optimistic, the Lakers remain a far cry from the playoff contender that most experts predicted the Lakers would be.
Considering their strength of schedule and inconsistent play, the Lakers have a daunting challenge in front of them if they want to make the playoffs. LeBron James hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2004-2005 season (his second in the league) and this roster is considerably more talented compared to some of his early Cleveland years. Unfortunately, the Western Conference is arguably as deep as it has ever been in basketball history and the Lakers can ill afford to take a night off.
Brandon Ingram’s Hot Streak Continues
Brandon Ingram continued to score the ball at an extremely effective clip, putting up 32 points on 12 of 18 shooting. Since the All-Star break, Ingram has averaged 29.3 points per game and is shooting above 50% from the field. Despite Ingram’s improved play, the Lakers as a whole have struggled and gone just 1-2 since the break.
Ingram looks much more comfortable with the recent adjustments to the Laker lineup. A rangy forward who thrives on attacking the basket, the Laker’s lack of outside shooting this year has at times clogged up the interior and forced Ingram away from his game. With veteran guard Reggie Bullock in the mix adding another weapon from deep, the Lakers are able to more effectively space the floor and Ingram is seeing some great results.