With a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers fell to 25-24, which kept them in the ninth seed in the Western Conference for another day. However, their luck might be coming to an end soon.
After dropping five of their last 10 games without LeBron James, the Lakers are now closer to the 11th seed than they are the eighth seed. In fact, because the Los Angeles Clippers won on Friday night, the Lakers are now two whole games back from the eighth seed.
That is, in a word, bad. And that’s before we get into rumors about Luke Walton’s job security.
It’s for that reason Kyle Kuzma believes the Lakers need to play every game with a sense urgency going forward.
“At the end of the day, every game is a must win. We’re fighting to be in the playoffs, fighting for seeding and the season’s ticking down. We’ve got less than 40 games,” Kuzma told reporters after the Lakers’ 120-150 loss to Minnesota. “Everything has to be serious right now. Every possession, every second.”
He’s absolutely right.
Last season, the Timberwolves snuck into the playoffs with a record of 47-35. To reach 47 wins this season, the Lakers would have to win 22 of their next 33 games. Even with James on the roster, that’s tough ask, especially given the strength of their remaining schedule.
According to our old friends at Tankathon, the Lakers have the fourth-hardest remaining schedule in the league. Just how tough is it, you ask?
Over the next 33 games, they’ll see the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers two times each. They’ll also face the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets one more time each this season.
Even if the Lakers win half of those games, that’s still seven or eight losses on their record. No team has made the Western Conference playoffs with less than 41 wins since the NBA lockout season in 2011, when teams only played 66 games. The last time it was done before that was in 1997.
James has shown he can do the impossible in the past, but that would involve him being on the court. He hasn’t played in a month and still has no definitive return date.
It’s hard to imagine a postseason without the King, but it’s starting to look like a real possibility that even his first year in L.A. doesn’t end the Lakers’ playoff drought.