The Los Angeles Lakers have lost six of their last seven games and are facing the reality of having to take part in the play-in tournament with just nine contests left in the regular season.
The Lakers latest loss came to a shorthanded Raptors squad on Sunday night and the defending champs are now sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference. The Lakers are in a tie with the Mavericks and Trail Blazers at 36-28, so every game here on out will hold extra weight to avoid the play-in situation that the No. 7 and 8 seeds will face.
Here’s a summary of how the play-in tournament will work, via NBA.com:
At the conclusion of the regular season but before the first round of the playoffs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed.
The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.
LeBron James: ‘Whoever Came Up With that S**t Needs to be Fired’
It’s convoluted, certainly, especially after a full season, and something LeBron James is not a fan of, especially with his Lakers coming to terms with the reality that they might be involved.
“It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset. If it happens to be sixth, or fifth, or whatever the case may be. Or if we end up in that playoff, whatever that thing is. Whoever came up with that s**t needs to be fired,” James said on Sunday.
The Lakers do not have an easy schedule to close out the regular season. Only one game is not part of a back-to-back stint and seven of nine are against teams currently in the playoffs.
Health is Priority for Lakers Going Forward
James exited the game midway through the fourth quarter and did not return against the Raptors, despite the Lakers making a bit of a run. The team said he was dealing with soreness in his ankle, which kept him out for 20 games.
The Lakers will wrap up a back-to-back stint against Denver on Monday and James’ status is uncertain.
“The plan is to see how I feel and go from there,” James said. “The most important thing for me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters.”
The Lakers have been absolutely hammered by injuries this season, most notably to James and Davis. The team was extra cautious with both stars but the Lakers have not struggled to form championship-level chemistry with both absent for so long.
“I think our team is predicated on health,” James said. “That is the No. 1 thing for our ball club. We need to be healthy and we need to be at full strength.”