At 20-21, the Lakers are currently tenth in the West, which is far away from the top of the standings where most expected them to be at the start of the season, given their two stars and the continuity from last year’s roster.
Now, we can contextualize why they haven't met the standards they were expected to reach, but at this point, they are what their record says they are and that’s a mediocre team bouncing in and out of the play-in.
If they want to make a push and begin to climb out of that spot, the time is now to do so and no one understands this better than D’Angelo Russell.
“These are huge games for us,” Russell said following the Lakers win versus the Thunder. “They all matter. This was a huge game to win tonight. And the next few that are coming up (would be) big wins to get just to go into that road trip with some rhythm and flow.”
Those next few matchups at home are against the Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets and Portland Trailblazers. On paper, the hardest game is the Mavericks matchup, but all three are winnable and the Lakers need to build some kind of momentum if they want to compete in the West.
An undefeated homestand would be a great start and would give the Lakers a four-game winning streak, which would be their longest win streak of the season.
Things haven’t gone the Lakers way, but they are rebuilding their identity during a critical point of the season. Darvin Ham has changed the starting lineup with Cam Reddish out and it found success against the Thunder. D’Angelo Russell has also continued to play well despite his name being in constant trade rumors.
There is still a lot of basketball left to play, but the Lakers have to treat these home games as a must-win scenario. They have a lot of ground to cover if they want to host a play-in game or move up to the sixth seed and guarantee themselves a first-round series.
The good news for the purple and gold is they’ve protected homecourt this year with a 14-7 record, so if they can run up a couple of wins in Los Angeles, it should put them closer to the seventh and eighth seed and ready for the final stretch of the season.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.