Prior to the 2019-20 NBA season being suspended back on March 11, the Los Angeles Lakers had lost a grand total of three games in a month and a half of action. LeBron James and Co. were rolling. They were seen as heavy favorites to come out of the Western Conference and earn a trip to the NBA Finals.
Nearly five months later, and things are in no way as clear. Los Angeles is coming off a brutal 116-111 loss to a lesser Indiana Pacers squad Saturday evening. It’s a game that saw All-Star big man Anthony Davis connect on just 3-of-14 shots while finishing minus-20 in 35 minutes of action.
This represents the Lakers’ fourth loss in six games since the NBA season resumed inside the Walt Disney World bubble in Orlando.
Should we be concerned?
Los Angeles has already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs
- This is important to note. By virtue of their win over the Utah Jazz this past Monday, the Lakers will be the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s of significance in that the No. 8 seed will likely have to partake in a play-in-tournament before going up against the Lakers in Round 1.
- Though, there’s some reason to be concerned on this front. Prior to their narrow loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers were on an absolute roll. If Portland is able to sneak into the playoffs, it could cause some major issues for the Lakers. That’s especially true given that Damian Lillard is playing out of his mind, Carmelo Anthony has returned to form and Jusuf Nurkic is back with the team.
Rotational issues for the Lakers
- Markieff Morris, J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters did not suit up for Saturday’s game. All three are recent acquisitions with Smith and Waiters having just joined the Lakers when they entered the Orlando bubble. The veterans are expected to play big roles once the playoffs resume.
- Whether this is a net positive for Los Angeles remains to be seen. However, the team can’t reasonably rely on the likes of Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook and Talen Horton-Tucker to play the amount of minutes we saw on Saturday while earning a trip to the NBA Finals. Rotational issues are a major problem for Los Angeles.
It’s all about the star power in Southern California
Through six games in the bubble, we have not seen both LeBron James and Anthony Davis cook within the confines of the same game. James returned from a one-game absence on Saturday to score 31 points on 13-of-24 shooting. As noted above, Davis shot 3-of-14 from the field and scored just eight points.
Needless to say, having both players perform at a high level in the same game makes Los Angeles nearly unbeatable. But given what we’ve seen at Walt Disney World, this could potentially be an issue once the playoffs start.
That will be magnified if Los Angeles is able to make a deep run in the playoffs, especially if the team goes up against the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, both of whom have multiple stars to rely on.
It’s not yet time to panic in Los Angeles. It’s clear that head coach Frank Vogel and Co. have a plan. Ease into the playoffs while getting a better understanding of what the rotation might look like.
Even then, a 2-4 record in six games is nothing to write home about. The Lakers need to right this ship before the postseason starts. If not, a shocking early exit could be in the cards.
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Author: Vincent Frank