The Lakers have been mired in a winless run since winning the In-Season Tournament, losers of four straight games and five of their last six games, a frustrating step backward after seemingly getting over the hump. Largely a result of injuries creeping in once again, the team has not been able to capitalize on their mid-season trophy or any momentum that would have come from it.
The counterargument to that is it is still December, and the team has time to figure things out, but it doesn’t sound like that’s an excuse they have any interest in. In fact, they’re veering in the other direction and adding more pressure on themselves instead of preaching patience.
After Thursday’s loss to the Timberwolves, Anthony Davis revealed that the Lakers were approaching their next game against the Thunder on Saturday as a must-win.
“We just have to get back to winning,” AD said. “It’s that simple. Obviously, in an NBA season, there’s going to be some ups and downs. We just have to continue to fight, continue to play hard, play with some effort, play with some energy. We’re treating Saturday as a must-win.”
Perhaps to ensure that the message got across, AD would later reiterate the team sees Saturday’s game as a must-win. And while he didn’t dive any further into the statement than that, it more or less speaks for itself.
Perhaps the team realized the big dichotomy in their play in the In-Season Tournament and wanted to replicate the format of needing victories once again. The team finished a perfect 7-0 in contests in the inaugural event.
Jokes aside, calling a December game a must-win, regardless of the situation, doesn’t feel smart. For one, it’s December and the Lakers already won the must-win games in Las Vegas.
For two, though, it adds some pressure to a game that doesn’t really need it. In normal circumstances, the Lakers could lose Saturday’s game and be fine long-term. It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s a game against the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference on the road. It’s not a shocker if they lose.
Instead, now, the Lakers have a lot of people aware of how they’re treating this game. Maybe it works and it jumpstarts the season. Maybe it doesn’t and now things feel significantly worse.
Remember when Jim Buss gave himself a self-imposed deadline where he would have the Lakers back in the playoffs or he’d resign? Missing that deadline heightened everyone’s senses and drastically raised the pressure on the team and front office.
Maybe the Lakers show up Saturday, treat it like an In-Season Tournament game and break the losing streak. For their sake, I certainly hope they do.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.