The previous two games were the perfect encapsulation of the 2022-2023 Los Angeles Lakers. When they have the golden opportunity to finally get over the hump, it seems they have this horrible habit of taking two steps backward instead. It’s been a theme throughout the season and once again, it was on full display with the way they handled matters on and off the basketball court in this past week.
After winning arguably their most impressive game of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans without LeBron James last Tuesday, the Lakers had the chance to finally get to .500 for the first time this season with a victory against one of the worst teams in the league, the Houston Rockets last Wednesday. Instead, they blew the opportunity and followed it up with another devastating loss to the Dallas Mavericks who were without Luka Doncic — on a night when the Lakers could’ve capitalized on the chance to jump from the ninth to the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
But here they are now, currently in the middle of a two-game losing streak in the most crucial and final stretch of the season. Friday’s loss to the Mavericks in particular was significantly brutal not only because the Lakers lost by a Maxi Kleber's game-winning 3-pointer (which again, could’ve been avoided) but their self-inflicted mistakes might have just cost them a seat in the Playoffs.
Los Angeles missed 12 (!!) free throws, 15 3-pointers and turned the ball over 12 times on a night when they lost by one point to the Mavericks. It also didn’t help that the team’s backcourt pairing of D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley combined for 0-9 from the 3-point arch and on top of that, the purple and gold attacked the game with an energy of a team that looked ready to go on vacation. The worst part of all of these is that Davis cost the Lakers seven points in the dying minutes of the game, which all could’ve been avoided as well.
So once again, we circle back to what we’ve been saying all season: Where do the Lakers go from here?
With exactly 11 games to go, the Lakers not only have to win most — if not all — of their games, but also hope (like they have been over the past couple of weeks) that the teams above and below them in the standings falter to grant them yet another opportunity to capitalize. And even if the opportunity once again comes their way, it won’t matter unless the Lakers take care of their own business, which leads us to their next matchup against the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
How will the Lakers respond against the Magic?
The Lakers’ next 11 games will take place at home six times and on the road five times. Despite their schedule being considered one of the easiest per Tankathon.com’s standards, it’s worth noting that the majority of their opponents in this stretch are as desperate as them to win games, too. So the Lakers’ situation is only going to get even more difficult in the next few weeks, and it’s really up to them to make things a little easier for themselves.
After a gut-wrenching loss to the Mavericks that may or may not have possibly sealed the Lakers’ season (we’ll know in the next few weeks if this is the case eventually), it’s going to be interesting to see how this team responds against the Orlando Magic. Will they let this losing streak cloud over their heads? Or will they play with the same urgency as they did against the Pelicans last Tuesday? Their body language, mentality and performance in this one will speak volumes in terms of the team’s current state.
Note that this Magic team, who will be on the backend of a back-to-back against the Lakers on Sunday, is not a pushover. They’re a lot better than what their record (28-42) suggests so the Lakers will have to get over what happened in the last 24 hours quickly and bring it. We’ll see how this Lakers team responds then and whether or not they’re going to continue to fight to save their season on Sunday.
Notes and Updates
- Before we get to the injury report, let me spray some optimism here because after all, we’re talking about capitalizing on opportunities. There’s still a window where the Lakers could find themselves in the eighth seed on Monday. That can only happen if:
- The Golden State Warriors lose to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight
- If the Minnesota Timberwolves drop their next two games to the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks
- If the Utah Jazz lose to the Boston Celtics tonight
- If the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t defeat the Phoenix Suns tonight
- And of course, if the Lakers take care of business against the Magic on Sunday.
- Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) is listed as probable.
- And as expected, the Lakers will be without Mo Bamba (left ankle sprain) and LeBron James (right foot soreness). Two-way players Scotty Pippin Jr. (G-League) and Cole Swider (G-League) are also going to be inactive due to South Bay Lakers duties.
- The Magic have yet to release their injury report but for what it’s worth, Issac Johnson (left adductor strain) and Jalen Suggs (concussion protocol) did not suit up tonight against the Clippers.
- For news around the league, if you want to take your mind off the Lakers’ horrible loss for a while today, you can focus your attention on the NCAA’s March Madness and the potential names to look out for in this coming NBA draft. You can check that out here.
The Lakers and Magic will tip off at 6:30 p.m. PT. The game will be only televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.