Heading into the trade deadline there was much speculation surrounding the potential for the Los Angeles Lakers to make a splash. Along with many other contenders the franchise was linked to Toronto Raptors guard, Kyle Lowry, but ultimately the front office moved ahead without executing a trade.
One of the leading favourites to win the title, the Lakers are unsurprisingly struggling without superstars LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf/achilles) in the lineup. Davis is slowly progressing, though there is no timetable for his expected return to the court. James on the other hand is expected to miss several weeks with a nasty high ankle sprain.
Hours after the deadline sailed by the Lakers hosted the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid. Despite a fourth quarter comeback the Lakers fell short, dropping their fourth straight game in a 109-101 decision.
Welcome back, Champs 💍💍 pic.twitter.com/vmEgKYhM9v- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 26, 2021
The losing streak began with Atlanta on the night James would only play 10 minutes before suffering the injury and has been followed by losses to Phoenix, New Orleans and now Philadelphia.
Across those games the team has an offensive rating of 100.5 which ranks dead last across the league with the 29th ranked Minnesota Timberwolves a full 2.8 points per 100 possessions better. A lack of playmaking and efficient scoring is plaguing the team, with Dennis Schroder (18.3 ppg on 37.7%FG) and Kyle Kuzma (15.5 ppg on 39.0%FG) struggling to find a groove without James.
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The fact that the Lakers are slumping is no surprise. Take the two best players away from any team and they would likely meet the same fate, but with congestion building in the Western Conference standings the team could yet be met with a difficult postseason path as they look to repeat as champions.
Possessing an 28-17 record, the Lakers have a tenuous hold on the 4th seed in the West, with the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers just 1.5 games back. While the Lakers with James and Davis would like be favoured in any series, slipping to sixth could present a challenging first round matchup against Utah, Phoenix or the LA rival Clippers.
Help could soon be on the way, with the Lakers expected to be players in the buyout market. Andre Drummond is a prime candidate to bolster the team's big man stocks while ESPN's Dave McMenamin has tabbed Avery Bradley as another potential name to watch.
It's far from time to panic in Los Angeles, but the losses are mounting. Montrezl Harrell denied the Lakers are trying to simply "hold on" without their superstars available but the reality is that's all they can do. Winnable games against the struggling Cavaliers and Magic await, we'll see if they can take advantage.
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