Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Phoenix Suns, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers playoff chances were fairly dismal heading into the matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. Following a Spurs and Kings win earlier in the day, their chances became even more dismal heading into tonight’s matchup. Down a pair of former second overall draft picks in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers were missing key offensive (Ingram) and defensive (Ball) weapons.
The Laker defense was once again a major issue, giving up nearly 100 points in the first three quarters alone. As has been the case with this Laker team all year, they fell behind early and spent the bulk of the game trying to claw their way back into contention. They fought hard early and despite the deep hole heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers refused to let their playoff hopes die quietly and mounted a valiant comeback effort.
Unfortunately, the comeback would fall short when Kyle Kuzma went down with a non-contact ankle injury, visibly deflating the Lakers. An ugly night was made worse when Kuzma would need to be helped off the court and escorted to the locker room. The loss moved the Lakers five and a half games back of the eighth seed San Antonio Spurs while the Clippers climbed a half-game over the Spurs with the win.
Updated Lakers Playoff Chances
Coming into the night, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection estimated that the Lakers had a 6 percent chance to make the playoffs, down from their 12 percent chance following their loss to the Suns. Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight’s ELO forecast gave the Lakers just a one percent chance to make the playoffs.
After the loss, the CARMELO projection dropped the Lakers down to only having a one percent chance to make the playoffs. Somehow, the pure ELO forecast was even bleaker, giving the Lakers a less than one percent chance to make the postseason.
Rajon Rondo & LeBron James have big nights in Loss
Rajon Rondo continued his strong play with a monster performance on the night, despite battling foul trouble. Rondo seems to have gotten more comfortable taking the three-pointer and the man who Kobe Bryant once refused to pick up outside the free throw line during the NBA finals fired off a team-high 10 shots from deep (making four). Rondo would go on to post a triple-double registering 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and 12 assists. In the absence of Brandon Ingram, the Lakers needed someone to step up and fill the role of secondary playmaker to LeBron and Rondo was more than up to the task tonight, impacting every aspect of the game. Unfortunately, the duo wouldn’t get much additional support from the rest of the depleted roster.
LeBron James was his typical efficient, stat-stuffing self. Clocking in with a very solid 27 points on 19 shots to go along with his eight rebounds and six assists, LeBron was great in facilitating the offense and did a surprisingly good job of balancing attacking the basket with deferring to the hot hand. Especially as the game got late, the combination of James and Rondo took over the game and mounted a valiant comeback effort that would eventually fall short and all but dash the Lakers playoff chances.