Lakers Get Ready for a Final Push for the Playoffs

With just 23 games remaining in their regular season schedule, the LA Lakers are seeded 13th in the Western Conference with a 28-32 slate, just a tad short of the 10th running Golden State Warriors’ 29-30. These next 23 games will be crucial to the Lakers bid for a playoff ticket, and Lebron James himself acknowledges it as “23 of the most important games of my career- for a regular season”. Lebron realizes he needs these games to give him another chance – probably his last – to bring home a crown. And he’s making it known to his supporting cast that they need to prepare themselves accordingly for this final run for a playoff stint. This could be Lebron’s last serious attempt at winning the NBA trophy once again, as age and injuries have been slowing him down lately. And he wanted to impress on his teammates the sense of urgency and the need for a tougher mindset henceforth to sustain the punishing playoff drive.

The campaign to make the Western conference playoffs is a wild, wide open race with only 4.5 games separating the 4th to 13th teams. It’s like a horse race with the top 3 teams – the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings – comfortably ahead, while horses 4 to 13 are bunched together with only 230 meters left in the homestretch. Except that there’s a catch here, as the race only determines who gets to the play in another set of grueling games. Whoever takes 4th to 6th get automatic entry to the playoffs, while those landing 7th to 10th get to join a mini-“play-in” tourney to determine the final 7th and 8th spots in the western playoffs.

The LA Clippers (33-28), the Phoenix Suns (32-28) and the Dallas Mavs (32-29) will most likely take the 4th to 6th slots, with their superior records, pls their recent roster acquisitions that have bolstered their chances in the western wars. The Minnesota Timberwolves (31-30), the New Orleans Pelicans (30-30), the Utah Jazz (30-31) and the defending champs Golden State Warriors (29-30) currently occupy the play-in slots from 7th to 10th. Taking the tail-end and still hopeful of making it to the play-in are the Oklahoma City Thunder (28-30), the Portland Trailblazers (28-31), and finally, the LA Lakers (28-32).

That said, the Lakers have started preparing for the grind by bringing in a stronger supporting cast that could help Lebron and Anthony Davis in the tougher wars ahead, in exchange for a misfit superstar in Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s exit seems to have provided a boost of energy in the locker room, as a different vibe and a new positive energy seem to have taken over the team. Gone was the negative energy that pervaded with Westbrook in the dugout.

And coming in was the collective positive vibes produced by young guns Malik Beasely, Jared Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Mo Bamba. And it’s not just in the intangibles, as these recent additions have bolstered the firepower and versatility of the Lakers’ roster. Ultimately, these young guns provide the needed depth that could help Lebron and Anthony Davis preserve their minutes for the more difficult playoff grind ahead. From a Lebron-AD-Westbrook superstar trio with no supporting cast, it has become a Lebron-AD duo with a strong support staff.

And it certainly looks much, much better for the Lakers.

Except that it now must contend with a significantly stronger Western Conference line-up. Getting to the playoffs is one thing, getting through the playoffs is another.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

First, the Lakers will have to focus on getting to the play-in. With the Jazz (30-31) losing Beasely, Vanderbilt and more significantly, veteran point guard Mike Conley, the Jazz’ record is definitely going south the rest of the season. With the uncertainty of New Orleans Pelicans Zion Williamson’s injury, the Pels (30-30) are also expected to have problems with their season campaign. The Golden State Warriors (29-30) on the other hand have been waiting for Steph Curry’s return to form in order to get their campaign in full throttle.

But other than the Lakers, there are other contenders for the play-in slots as well. There’s the Oklahoma Thunder (28-30) with all-star guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander leading the charge, and the Portland Trailblazers (28-31) with the red-hot Damian Lillard shooting from all over the court. They could also make it difficult for the Lakers to take the final 10th slot, enough for the play-in.

Still, the Lakers are confident that they are a much better team now, with more balance, and a better vibe among the players and staff. Coach Darvin Ham expressed his optimism and confidence in having a second unit that was strong enough to give the first team the much-needed rest. With Beasely’s outside sniping, Vanderbilt’s defense and inside muscle, D’Angelo’s ball distribution, Hachimura’s contributions from the wings, Bamba’s strong rebounding, together with support left-overs Dennis Shroeder, Austin Reeves and the rest, the Lakers believe they have a better than good chance to make the play-in. And enough time to jell, and give the playoff contenders a serious run for their money.

I foresee the Lakers taking the 7th slot in the Western Conference derby. I foresee the Trailblazers or the Thunder taking the final slot, with both the Jazz and the Pelicans going down in this final stretch. The Lakers will be a more competitive team in the playoffs. But can Lebron’s older legs and the injury-prone Anthony Davis sustain a full-blown playoff campaign? That’s definitely a different story.

Laker fans (paging Atty Jun Amora), it’s time to show the Lakers the good ole college cheer! Go, Lakers!!!

For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of Fadeaway World. Other pics courtesy of, Silver Screen and Roll, LA Times, Twitter, Kyodo News, Clutchpoints, Sports llustrated, Lakers Nation, the Kansas Star and Lake Show Life.


  1. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Trailblazers. Although it was against Houston, Damian goes off for 71 points and if they get back their full roster, they could make the play-in, but your analysis of how the Lakers improved themselves is spot on Charley.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll take that to mean that you will be symbolically cheering them on and when you say, “I’ll be there,” that you don’t mean you’ll be literally coming to Portland because in that case I have to raise some mugs with you and show you some of our great breweries!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha! I wish! I know that Portland is such a wonderful place that’s to die for! I’m afraid that if I go there, I may not have the will to go back to where I come from. So the next best thing for me is to visit your place thru your eyes, thru your blogs, Don, and books and stories and movies of this great town called Blazerville! Wish I could take you up on that invit to a mug or 2, but cheers anyway, my friend!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m never one to comment on a person trying to do their job because so many things get lost in nuance but your description of Russell’s departure is so spot on. It was sad to sense the quiet but eventually overpowering sense that he had become radioactive around the league.

    Sam Presti’s management of him and Kevin Durant in OKC will go down forever as a textbook case of why you have to cut antagonistic elements out of your team regardless of talent level.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true. Clippers’ fans are hoping that the vibes in the Clippers’ dugout will be more positive for Westbrook. With former teammate Paul George right there, the situation could change favorably for him. If the team starts losing bigtime, he could becme a pariah in the league. If the team reaches deep in the playoffs, then he is vindicated.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.