‘Time’s running out’: Lakers have eight games to prove their postseason worthiness
They have eight games left in a season that has gone off the rails, eight games to cling to what little hope they truly have, eight games to make rights of what they couldn’t do in the first 74 regular season games, eight games for these underachieving Lakers to control their own fate.
And now, after the Lakers suffered a crushing loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in a fight for play-in seeding in the Western Conference, after the Lakers wait to see if LeBron James is healthy enough to keep playing after suffering a nasty left ankle injury Sunday night, the Lakers have indeed reached the crossroads in their season.
“Time’s running out,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Sunday night. “We got to get some wins. We got to put some wins together and turn the attention to Dallas. Whatever it takes to beat Dallas, we got to do.”
The Lakers led New Orleans by 20 points at halftime but lost the game and fell to 10th place in the Western Conference standings, one game ahead of the Spurs.
Before they meet the Mavericks on Tuesday in Dallas, the Lakers have to look at the standings and can’t like what they see.
The 116-108 defeat to the Pelicans has left the Lakers on shaky ground.
The Lakers are a half-game behind the ninth-seeded Pelicans in the West and hold just a game lead over the 11th-seeded San Antonio Spurs for the 10th spot that secures a position in the play-in tournament.
Both the Pelicans and Spurs hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers, which means winning as many of these eight games remaining ultra-important.
The pain of blowing a 23-point lead that was 20 at the half was made even more painful to know that James limped in for his post-game interview saying that his ankle was “horrible” and that it was “pretty sore right now.”
“This game is over,” Vogel said. “We go to turn the page to the next one. I mean, it’s not good. It hurts. This game hurts. This was a big game. But we have to regroup, we have to find a way to beat Dallas and get some wins down the stretch here. Time’s running out on us. We came out with the proper urgency for this game but weren’t able to close it.”
The Lakers have the second-toughest schedule remaining, facing teams with a combined .569 winning record.
They face Dallas (46-29) Tuesday and Utah (45-30) Thursday, both on the road.
Kobe Bryant’s signature shoes will again be produced by Nike, his widow Vanessa announced on Instagram.
The Lakers return home to play these Pelicans (32-43) again on Friday and the Nuggets (44-31) next Sunday. The Lakers then play at league-leading Phoenix (61-14) and at Golden State (48-27).
The Lakers play their last home game of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-53) and the season finale at Denver on April 10.
The Spurs have eight games left and the 13th-hardest schedule remaining, facing teams with a .513 winning percentage. The Pelicans have seven games left and have the 23rd most difficult schedule left, meeting teams with a .475 winning percentage.
“Yeah, man, I’m never down on myself or the team, man, cause all it takes is two or three games, man, to turn it around, man,” Malik Monk said. “We’ve been playing great on the offensive end, besides tonight, the last couple of games. So, yeah, man, I’m never not confident in what we can do, especially when we got Bron on our team. So, yeah, man, we just got to stay together and not have a fourth quarter like we did, man. We can’t score 14 points and think we going to be a good team.”
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