The Lakers have probably had one complete performance, and maybe two depending on how you feel about the team’s offense against the Clippers, while in the bubble. There hasn’t been much of a reason to play harder, even as other teams fight for their playoff lives, but it has been strange to watch the Lakers lag in the effort department after their energy was their calling card throughout much of the regular season.
Nevertheless, the players and coaches have seen enough to proclaim that this squad is ready for the playoffs, recent results be damned.
“I really am confident in this group,” Frank Vogel said after the team’s win over Denver. “Our defense slipped the last two games because we’ve been focusing so much on gaining an offensive rhythm, working in new guys and what not, but I feel very confident that we can tighten the screws on the defensive end very quickly. We’ve got a lot of practice between tonight’s game and the first day of the playoffs, with the one game on Thursday. I think there’s going to be seven days or so, so we’ve got a lot of time to get some good work in and I’m very confident going into the playoffs with this group.”
The amount of time the Lakers have at their disposal was a common theme among the players. It may have been difficult to wholly prepare for each seeding game matchup given the quick turnaround for each game during the restart, but LeBron James in particular is confident that the Lakers will be able to hone in on playoff opponents once they get into a series.
“There’s a different type of preparation that goes into a playoff game,” James said. “You spend hours and hours on on on teams, because you know you’re gonna be locked in with them at least for four games. Throughout the regular season or throughout these eight games, you really just have maybe a day. Maybe not even a full day. It’s just kind of like locking in on a team and then you start preparing for the next team.
“So, me personally, as far as mentally, I’m not in playoff mode. Physically, I’m getting there. I feel like my legs have gotten better and better, my game has improved more and more, I’m getting more and more comfortable with the bubble. But as far as the mental side of it, I’m not there. Personally, I don’t think our team is there personally, but we will be. It’s a different type of mindset that you have to be in, but you don’t want to jump into it before you actually get there because it takes a lot. A lot of energy and a lot of effort.”
The good news is that the Lakers haven’t had to expend as much energy getting prepared for the playoffs. Even though the team’s recent performance hasn’t been inspiring, the Lakers would rather not go all out and save their legs for what figures to be a grueling postseason run.
The Lakers have been ready to play for every big moment this season has presented. They may not have won every game, but the intensity has been there, and the team is certain that will be the case once again when the games matter. Even in this unusual playoffs set-up, there’s little reason to believe that this team won’t be able to deliver on that promise.