Frustrations are rising among the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
After suffering a 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers have now lost six of their last seven games and are in a three-way tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference standings.
TAKEAWAYS: Lowry, Siakam catch fire in win over Lakers
By virtue of tiebreakers, Los Angeles enters the week as the West's sixth seed but is in clear danger of falling to seventh, which would mean it would need to earn one win in the new Play-In Tournament to qualify for the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||36||28||.563||10|
|7||Portland Trail Blazers||36||28||.563||10|
|9||Golden State Warriors||32||32||.500||14|
|10||San Antonio Spurs||31||32||.492||14.5|
LeBron James, who is back in the lineup after missing over six weeks of action with a high ankle sprain, acknowledged that his health is paramount to team success, while also making his stance on potentially participating in the tournament quite clear.
"It doesn't matter at the end of the day - if I'm not close to 100 percent, it don't matter where we land," James told reporters postgame. "That's my mindset … if we end up at fifth or sixth or whatever the case may be. If we end up in the (Play-In) … whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s- needs to be fired, but whatever."
In his first two games back from injury, James has posted averages of 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in under 30 minutes, exiting early against Toronto due to ankle soreness. The four-time Finals MVP refused to make excuses about the team's availability issues, even after guard Dennis Schröder was forced to sit against the Raptors due to the league's health and safety protocols.
"At the end of the day, we have five guys on the floor and we need to play Laker basketball and we haven't done that in the last seven games," James continued.
"No matter who's been out on the floor, it starts with us and we need to get the game plan and go out and execute it but, definitely a challenging few weeks for us but ultimately I think we'll figure it out."
Anthony Davis, who missed 30 games before returning to the lineup a week before James, admitted just how much this recent stretch is impacting the team, saying, "I think this is the lowest we've been in a while, at least in the past two years from a losing streak, but the only way is up, we really can't get any lower than this."
Davis' perspective indicates that Los Angeles can turn things around, but with just eight regular-season games remaining, time is quickly running out.
After allowing 121 points to the Raptors, including a combined 76 points from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam (on 27-for-46 shooting), Davis cited energy, effort and defence as key issues this team must resolve, adding that health can't be an excuse anymore.
"Frustrated we can't get everyone healthy - or I'll say everyone available to play at the same time," Davis added. "That's the most frustrating part, but that can't be an excuse for us anymore, to be honest."
While listed as available against his former team, Lakers centre Marc Gasol picked up a DNP-CD in the loss. Kyle Kuzma, who had 24 points against Toronto, made a suggestion that Gasol would be beneficial for the team moving forward.
"I wish we could get a little more time out there with Marc, that would be something that would be pretty good for us, for sure," Kuzma said to reporters. "But it's just tough and we got a lot of different situations and a lot of things going (on) around us."
Things get no easier for the Lakers, who embark upon a week in which they are scheduled to face the Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns.
With questions and frustrations abound, Los Angeles will need to find the solutions quickly or the Play-In scenario could quickly become a reality.
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