Through three games of the NBA’s restart, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown much of what makes them a title contender.
They have also shown how vulnerable they can be when things are not working correctly.
Beginning with Wednesday’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers have some time to look inward and work on being the best they can be for the playoffs.
Los Angeles did clinch the top seed in the Western Conference with Monday’s win over Utah. And Lakers star LeBron James isn’t hiding the fact that he’ll be keeping an eye on the race for eighth place, and a first-round playoff opponent, in the coming days.
“I think it’s absolutely unhuman if you wasn’t really paying attention to the seedings, especially at this point of the season,” James said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You’re looking at Memphis and Pelicans and San Antonio and Portland. I’m not taking out Phoenix as well. You’re just seeing the games and seeing what can possibly be our matchups.”
The Lakers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
None of the Lakers’ five remaining games are against teams they might meet in the first round.
During their two wins so far in the restart, it’s been Anthony Davis, not James, who has been the catalyst to success.
Davis averaged 38 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Jazz. He had just 14 points, and seven shots from the field, in the loss to Toronto.
Davis said the loss Saturday opened his eyes a bit.
“I have to play better basketball than I did (against the Raptors) to help the team win,” he said. “Even though I was making the right plays, I still have to be aggressive. I didn’t like the way I performed and didn’t like the way we performed as a team.”
While the Lakers (51-15) might have time to catch their breath a little bit and focus on what’s to come in the playoffs, Oklahoma City has no such luxury.
The Thunder (41-25) enter the game sixth in the West, with Dallas lurking in striking distance. But the fourth seed is still in realistic reach as well.
The Thunder are 1-1 since the restart, with plenty of strong moments in both a win over the Jazz and a loss to the Nuggets, but also some uncharacteristic struggles.
“Like everybody else, we’re trying to get back to the same rhythm,” Oklahoma City’s Danilo Gallinari said. “That’s something not easy to do right away. It’s going to take some time, but I’m sure we’ll get to that point.”
Oklahoma City will be without its backup point guard, Dennis Schroder for the second consecutive game after Schroder left the team – and the NBA bubble – for the birth of his second child Monday morning.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander performed well Monday, especially late in the game – mainly when he was one the floor together with Chris Paul – but Oklahoma City will have to continue to adjust without their primary backup point guard.
The Thunder are expected to have Terrance Ferguson back Wednesday after the forward sat out of Monday’s game with a leg contusion.
–Field Level Media