The LA Lakers have experienced nothing short of a frustrating stretch of games over the last couple of weeks. LA’s continued shortcomings have pushed them toward the brink of falling into the play-in tournament. The Lakers are now trekking ahead with another difficult hurdle emerging.
Lakers stumbling toward the playoffs
As the regular season winds down, the Lakers continue their tumble south down the standings.
Beyond the extended absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, LA struggles to find any consistency. Despite James returning last week and Davis a few days before him, their descent down the playoff seeding persists.
The Lakers have dropped six out of their previous seven contest, including their last two straight to shorthanded teams. Their latest came on Sunday night to the Toronto Raptors, giving up 121 points despite being without two contributors.
The Raptors controlled the tempo of the game after erasing a 12-point lead early in the first half. Toronto outscored LA 40-21 in the second quarter, and maintained their comfortable margin throughout the second half.
There is an apparent lack of urgency or internal push to get back on track. All that has contributed to LA being where they stand, facing the likelihood of participating in the play-in tournament to secure a playoff berth.
The Lakers’ path has now become a bit more daunting after the latest hurdle.
Lakers suffer a tough blow to their playoff push
LA’s struggles continue to pile on with each passing game, creating more doubt around another NBA title push.
Their journey toward avoiding the play-in tournament just took another concerning turn. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, guard Dennis Schroder is expected to miss the next 10 to 14 days due to the health and safety protocol.
The expected timetable for a return would optimistically see him play in the final two regular-season games against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans.
His absence puts a significant damper on the Lakers’ backcourt as he’s been a consistent contributor. With Davis and James sidelined, Schroder took on a massive offensive role as the team’s primary ball-handler and scoring option. In 59 games, he’s averaging 15.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest.
The timing of this situation also prevents him from building much-needed chemistry on the court alongside James, Davis, and Andre Drummond. That aspect alone could become quite crucial for the team’s on-court cohesiveness heading into the playoffs.
With Schroder out of the lineup, Alex Caruso will have an extended role as a starter. Meanwhile, Talen Horton-Tucker will assume more playing time off the bench to fill Caruso’s typical spot.
Tough remaining regular-season schedule ahead
The task doesn’t become easier for the Lakers in the remaining regular-season schedule.
Heading into Monday’s contest against the Denver Nuggets, LA sits in a three-way tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. The Mavericks hold the tiebreak for the fifth overall spot, which could become a pivotal factor in the playoff seeding.
Meanwhile, their other seven remaining games feature several playoff teams such as the Trail Blazers, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks. The Lakers could see things head further south in a hurry if they don’t quickly get back on track.
There is the real danger of potentially falling out of the playoffs entirely through the play-in tournament.
Ultimately, the final eight regular-season games will reveal whether contending for another NBA title remains a realistic hope.