For the first time since the end of the 2020-21 season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on a five-game winning streak.
Say what you want about the quality of the opponents, it’s still extremely impressive that the Lakers are doing something they haven’t done in almost two years without one Anthony Davis as he continues to recover from the stress injury in his right foot.
LeBron James is, obviously, the main reason for this recent success (averaging 38.0 PPG within the five-game streak), but the team is also getting positive contributions from players that haven’t necessarily been the most positive of performers this season, including Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley.
However, the two role players that are lifting the Lakers the most are Dennis Schroder and Thomas Bryant. They rank second and third on the team in PPG during the five-game streak, averaging 21.4 and 21.2 PPG, respectively.
Now, at the time of this preview publishing, the Lakers find themselves closer in the standings to being in playoff contention than hanging out with bottom-dwellers like the Houston Rockets.
To keep the good times rolling, they’ll have to beat the Denver Nuggets on Monday.
Multiple factors make this a daunting game, most notably the fact that the Nuggets are currently the top-seed in the Western Conference with a 12-3 record in their last 15 games. Other than that, the Lakers will be playing their third game in four days in one of the toughest places to play in the NBA (Nuggets are 16-3 at home this season) with the high elevation in the area.
Can LeBron and his supporting cast muster enough energy and focus to get their first six-game winning streak since Feb. 10, 2021?
Well... maybe that’s not the number one worry right now with LeBron...
Internal cold war continues...
One would assume that given this recent success, the behind-the-scenes Lakers drama could take a backseat to let the fun times provided by LeBron, Schroder, and Bryant to sit up front in the car.
Fat chance on that...
The Athletic’s Sam Amick had a rushed exchange with LeBron after the Lakers’ most recent win vs. the Kings on Saturday, with the conversation ending with the following quote from The King when asked about whether or not the front office should make a trade:
Y’all know what the f*** should be happening. I don’t need to talk.
And although LeBron made the clarification on Twitter in direct response to Amick’s article that his patience isn’t waning and that he’s not frustrated...
these recent quotes as well as his words following their last loss against the Heat paint a different picture.
The recent five-game winning streak coming after LeBron’s comments in Miami seems to show that this team’s focus cannot be altered by off-the-court trade discussions and drama. However, could that drama continue to build to a point where it causes the team’s chemistry to splinter internally? After all, when LeBron says “Y’all know what the f*** should be happening,” that “What” is some of LeBron’s current teammates being shipped out to a different team.
I try to always say, “trade discussions can be saved for a later date,” especially when the Lakers are having so much success with the trade deadline still a month away. However, we all know that can’t ever be the case with this Lakers team until that Feb. 9 deadline passes.
Until then, hopefully the Lakers team — led by one of the best leaders in NBA history in LeBron — can continue to stay focused on the day-to-day task of winning as many games as possible.
Now, will that continued focus be enough to go on the road and beat one of the best teams at home in the NBA? We’ll just have to see...
Notes and Updates
- Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain), and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee tendinitis) will all be out. It was recently decided that Reaves and Walker would be re-evaluated in two weeks due to their respective injuries.
- LeBron James (left ankle soreness) and Russell Westbrook (left foot soreness) are probable for tonight’s game.
- Other than that, Troy Brown Jr.’s status (left quad strain) should be monitored, as he’s listed as “questionable” once again. He was questionable heading into the Kings game and ended up being inactive. He’s missed the last two games after missing the second half of the Jan. 4 game vs. the Heat.
- The Denver Nuggets will be without Jeff Green (left finger sprain/hand fracture), Collin Gillespie (recovery from right leg fracture), Peyton Watson (left abductor strain), and Jack White (G-League play).
The Lakers and Nuggets will tip off at 6 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.