Heading into the night facing dismal playoff chances, the Los Angeles Lakers had their work cut out for them against the Eastern Conference heavyweight Toronto Raptors. Though LeBron James once again had a monster night, the Lakers were unable to overcome the Raptors and their unrelenting lineup depth. After keeping the game relatively close heading into the half, the Raptors slowly pulled away from the Lakers as the game went on and the Lakers ended up being blown out
Despite Kyle Kuzma returning to the lineup this week, the Lakers lost Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram for the season and move into the homestretch shorthanded. Two-way players Alex Caruso and Jonathan Williams have seen increased minutes (while looking very serviceable) and the Lakers recently signed G-League legend Andre Ingram to a 10-day contract to help fill the shooting void at the guard position.
Sharpshooters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock continued their struggles from deep (Caldwell-Pope more so than Bullock) and the lack of a reliable threat behind the three-point line has been the Lakers biggest Achilles heel on the year. LeBron thrives on attacking the basket and collapsing the defense before making the smart read. Unfortunately, with no reliable outside threat, opposing teams are able to cheat on their assignments to help clog up LeBron’s driving lanes and he has been forced to settle for considerably pull up mid-range jumpers or threes.
Lakers Updated Playoff Chances
As it has been for the past week, the Lakers headed into the matchup against the Raptors with less than a one percent chance to make the playoffs according to both FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO Projection and FiveThirtyEight’s ELO Forecast. Entering the night seven games back of the Clippers in the eighth seed, the Lakers had only gone 3-7 over their previous 10 games.
The loss did the Lakers no favors with either projection, however, both projections likely accounted for the Lakers dropping this matchup due to the Raptors being one of the best teams in the league and playing at home. Now 7.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers with just 14 games to play, the Lakers need nothing short of divine intervention to help make the NBA playoffs.
Lakers Path to the Playoffs
The Boston Celtics offered a much-needed win over the ninth-seeded Sacramento Kings to help at least give Laker fans some hope that they could still make a run to the NBA playoffs. Despite not losing ground to the Kings, the Lakers lost ground to Clippers and have a pair of must-win games against the sub .500 Pistons and Knicks in their next two games. At most, the Lakers can afford to drop about three more games before simply having too many losses to contend and will need to go at worst 11-3 to even give themselves an outside chance.
More importantly, they need help from the Clippers in a major way. With the Clippers sitting at 39-30, the Lakers can only afford to have them win two more games before the Clippers cement their record at or above .500 for the season. Despite coming off of a loss to the Trail Blazers in their last game, the Clippers have been playing great basketball and will almost certainly be able to pick up more than two wins.
Long story short, the Lakers path to the playoffs is nearly non-existent after their loss to the Raptors.