The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the middle of what is perhaps the least impressive winning streak of all time. They’ve won six games in a row, but the last three were overtime victories in which they barely squeaked past two of the worst teams in the NBA: The Oklahoma City Thunder (twice) and the Detroit Pistons (once).
Without getting too deep in the weeds or unnecessarily meta, I will say this: Writing buzzer recaps for overtime games is difficult. My poor colleague Christian Rivas’ last two previews were an exhaustive documentation of his further devolution towards overtime-driven insanity. And it doesn’t sound like very many of you in this comments section or on other social media platforms have enjoyed these recent wins very much more than us bloggers.
A win is a win, but at what cost?
But more important for the Lakers than Christian’s mental state is the toll that overtime has to be taking on a 36 year old LeBron James. I mean, the Thunder and Pistons should not require THIS level of effort:
LeBron James hasn’t played this much in a three-game span since the 2018 NBA Finals. The Thunder are the new Warriors.— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) February 11, 2021
Now, James tried to make it clear after the second game in that stretch that he’s not tired, but the Lakers are also saying they want to be sensible with his minutes. They’ve tried to find ways to rest him in games..
Per InStat, LeBron James is shooting jumpers in more than half of his isolation possessions this year (54.7%). He's creating 0.91 points per play on such shots.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) February 11, 2021
Both of those are up from last season, when he took jumpers out of 53.1% of his isolations, and out of 48.9% of his PnRs.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) February 11, 2021
...and after them, like when head coach Frank Vogel decided to load manage his star during media availability on Wednesday, sending James home without speaking to reporters after beating the Thunder the second time so he could get more rest. I can’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to talk to us after all that, either. But even with James clearly picking his spots at times during games, skipping a five-minute chat with the media probably isn’t enough to fully offset the wear and tear he’s taking right now.
All that noted, James and the Lakers have earned some degree of benefit of the doubt here. No one knows James’ body better than James and his cadre of trainers. Still, he probably wouldn’t say no to a more consistent effort from this team that allowed him to rest for a fourth quarter or two. It would also surely be helpful if Anthony Davis (Achilles tendinitis) and Alex Caruso (sore right hand) came back to give the Lakers some reinforcements.
But whether those two play or not, Friday night should offer another opportunity for an easy win, at least theoretically. The Memphis Grizzlies — 10-10 and losers of four of their last five games — are coming to town as the Lakers’ home stand continues. With the way the Lakers have played in their last several games, though, a victory, even against this lesser opponent, is hardly a guarantee.
Or maybe it is, given that the Lakers have somehow pulled out wins in their last six. If they keep this stuff up against Memphis, they’ll either have their bad habits finally bite them, or just have to be thrilled that there is no style points evaluation on wins at the end of the year. But in my own self interest, I personally hope they pass on both of those and go for door No. 3. Because if us bloggers could use a blowout, I can only imagine how the guys playing in three overtime games in five days feel.
Notes and Updates
- Anthony Davis (right Achilles tendinosis) was able to practice on Thursday, but the Lakers are still listing him as questionable on the injury report.
AD is questionable for tomorrow. Jared Dudley and AC have been upgraded to probable. pic.twitter.com/WpA5ofFejo— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) February 12, 2021
UPDATE: Both Alex Caruso and Anthony Davis are expected to play against the Grizzlies on Friday, according to Frank Vogel.
- The Lakers got some great results from their shorter rotation, but is it sustainable in the locker room long-term? Both Markieff Morris and Wesley Matthews don’t sound thrilled about their roles being reduced prior to Davis and Caruso’s absences, and while they said all the right things, this team’s chemistry in the face of such tough choices is something that has to be monitored.
- Davis, Caruso and James are all cleaning up in NBA All-Star Game voting. For more on how they’re doing, check this story out.
The Lakers and Grizzlies tip off on Friday at 7:00 p.m. PT. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on ESPN.