At the start of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers were the overwhelming favorites to lift the trophy and claim their back-to-back championships. With good moves in the offseason, the team looked even stronger than it was last season, and set for a good regular season campaign.
Although their performances were not as expected, the Lakers were able to come up with some good results as the season progressed, and, by the end of January, they were battling for the top of the standings. However, with Anthony Davis and LeBron James suffering injuries, in February and March respectively, the Lakers lost both their superstars and entered a cold streak that led the team to fall to seventh place in the Western Conference.
Now, with both players back in the starting lineup and only a few games from the end of the season, Los Angeles is back in contention. Despite being bound to the play-in tournament, the Lakers are still one of the favorites to a playoff spot, as, according to sportsbooks on this great source for NBA betting information, they are at -2000 odds to reach the playoffs.
Hot start and injuries
The Lakers got to a hot start of the season and by the end of January, had posted a 15-6 record, with great wins over the Mavs and the Bucks. Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell proved to be excellent additions to the squad, and, despite having some trouble in his first games, Marc Gasol was starting to adjust to the team’s rotation.
On February 15, during an away loss to the Denver Nuggets, Anthony Davis suffered a calf injury, after playing only 14 minutes. He was sidelined, and missed the following 30 games. After his injury, the Lakers went on to lose 5 games in 6, but remained in the top 5 in the Western Conference.
Even after losing the All-Star forward, the team was still able to come up with some good results thanks to LeBron James’ efforts, including a thrilling win against the Pacers and a blowout victory over the Warriors. However, on March 20, as the Lakers played the Atlanta Hawks at the Staples Center, James suffered a severe high ankle sprain that made him miss the 20 consecutive games.
Without their two stars, the Lakers’ performances dropped drastically, and the only wins in this period came when players like Kyle Kuzma or Montrezl Harrell had an inspired evening. In the last week before the trade deadline, Los Angeles signed veteran center Andre Drummond, who had become a free agent after reaching a buyout agreement with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He soon earned a spot in the starting lineup and provided some aid in the Lakers’ paint during Davis’ absence.
Anthony Davis returned to the squad on April 22, but wasn’t able to make an impact as the Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks. Before the game, coach Frank Vogel said, “He’s going to need to get his legs under him as expected. You can’t simulate NBA action. That’s what the next few games are going to be about. This is an important first step”. Lacking playing time and intensity, he struggled in the following matches, posting bad numbers and missing a lot of high percentage shots.
Just over a week after, Los Angeles faced the Kings, with LeBron James back after one month and 20 games. The team played well but fell short in the last minutes of the fourth quarter, despite a good game by the dynamic duo. Even though the Lakers lost that game, it seemed that their problems were finally over, since both stars were back in action and clicking again. However, after a home loss against the Toronto Raptors, James injured the same ankle and had to be sidelined once more.
The Lakers went 2-2 in the following games and are currently placed seventh in the Western Conference. They face the Indiana Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans before the end of the season, and apart from winning these games, the California franchise must count on the Trail Blazers losing their matches to avoid the play-in tournament, which will feature the teams placed 7th through 10th to decide the seventh and eighth seed in each conference.