The Los Angeles Lakers set off on their post All-Star Game slate on Thursday night, but will do so coming off of one of their worst losses of the season. Brandon Ingram spoke after that game in Atlanta about what the Lakers have to do if they want to right the ship and make it into the postseason.
As you’d probably expect after such a disappointing night, Ingram (who has been a lot better than you probably think) didn’t have a lot to say other than that the Lakers have to be a lot better (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“We have 25 games just to wash (this last loss) out and just be better, and just think about the playoffs, think about how we can lock in each game and how much each game counts.”
A quick glance at the schedule really highlights how difficult a task the Lakers have in front of them, having to make up a gap of two and a half games over their next 25 contests. They’ll have to do so against tougher competition than the teams they’re trying to catch, too.
Thursday night, they’ll face the Houston Rockets at home, and over the next couple months, they’ll take on the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz twice each. The rest of their schedule features games against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers — all of whom have beaten the Lakers already. They’ll also face the very Clippers they’re trying to leapfrog twice, and the Sacramento Kings once in what may prove to be a gigantic tiebreaker.
In all likelihood, they’ll have to do all that without Lonzo Ball for at least another couple weeks, given the conservative way the medical staff has handled his injuries in the past. Even when he does return, it will take some time to get back to the kind of basketball he was playing before spraining his ankle.
All of this isn’t to say making it to the playoffs is impossible, mind you. Ball could return sooner than expected, and the Lakers could get back to playing literally any defense whatsoever. LeBron James could stop passive-aggressively taking stretches of games off and the entire team could figure things out. Crazier things have happened, after all.
But Ingram’s point remains. The Lakers have to lock in and stay focused for the next 25 games. It’ll take going at least 17-8 to reach 45 wins, which seems to be just about where the cutoff will be for these playoffs. Any fewer than 45 total wins leaves a lot up to chance and, given how tough the Western Conference is, it isn’t worth risking that if you can avoid it.
Should the Lakers fail to turn things around and get into the playoffs, an already busy offseason to be would get even more uncomfortable. Yes, LeBron and others missed considerable time this season, but you don’t have disappointing seasons like this without having legitimate holes organizationally. If the Lakers do miss the playoffs, the one “positive” per se would be that they’d be force to address those, as awkward as doing so might be.