NBA

Can The Lakers Make a Legitimate Playoff Run?

Last night’s Lakers game against the Pacers marks a three-game winning streak for the Los Angeles franchise after the team amassed 150 points in their 150-145 victory over Indiana. 

This game marked the Lakers’ highest point total in a single game since the 1986-1987 Lakers franchise that won the NBA title that season. Not only did the Los Angeles franchise clinch their highest points since the 1986-1987 season, but four players clinched over 25 points in last night’s game, marking another feat. 

Nine-time NBA All-Star Anthony Davis clinched 36 points and 16 rebounds against the Pacers, while Lakers sensation LeBron James added another 26 points and 10 assists in the team’s journey to 150 points. Los Angeles guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored 26 points, and shooting guard Austin Reaves added 25 points and eight assists. 

Davis, James, Dinwiddie, and Reaves are the first quartet in the NBA in the last three years to clinch this feat of scoring over 20 points in a single game, becoming the 7th team to do so. More impressively, the four teammates are the first quartet of players in Lakers franchise history to secure this feat since the 1971 season. 

Last night’s feat illustrated that if the Los Angeles franchise can now operate as a cohesive team that does not depend on one or two superstars such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they have a chance at succeeding and having an impressive run in this year’s playoff tournament. 

James and Davis are the most utilized players on the team, as they have the highest average of minutes per game this NBA regular season. LeBron has averaged 35.2 minutes per game this season, and Davis has averaged 35.6 minutes. No other players on the Lakers are being used as much as the two Los Angeles superstars. 

Ahead of this 2023-2024 NBA season, James and the Lakers were planning on having the 39-year-old cut back on his playing time as he entered his 21st NBA season. The idea was to keep James’ minutes low during the regular season to preserve his immense talent for the postseason. 

In their season-opening game against the Denver Nuggets on October 24, 2023, the Lakers had LeBron on the court for only 29 minutes. Following their 119-107 loss to the Nuggets, James’ playing time immediately increased, seemingly altering the Lakers’ plans to preserve the star’s talent for the postseason. This increase in playing time worked in LeBron’s favor as it expedited him setting an unbreakable record of 40,000 career points on March 2, 2024, against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers’ biggest fault this season could be how much they have relied on James and Davis. Their roster is full of talent, as seen in last night’s game when Dinwiddie and Reaves heavily contributed to the team’s 150 points. If the Lakers start prioritizing all their players, they may be able to make a legitimate playoff run. 

With 11 games left in the NBA regular season, the Lakers are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference. They are trailing the No. 6 Phoenix Suns by three wins and the No. 7 Sacramento Kings and No. 8 Dallas Mavericks by two. 

As there are still 11 games to go in the regular season, the Lakers have the opportunity to surpass their fellow Western Conference teams and clinch a guaranteed playoff spot. If the Los Angeles franchise can clinch a place in the top six, they can forgo the Play-In Tournament their current ranking will force them to compete in. 

If the Lakers cannot work their way into the Western Conference top-six teams, they will compete in the Play-In Tournament as they did last season. 

Throughout NBA Playoff history, no Play-In Tournament team has managed to clinch the NBA title. The 2022-2023 Lakers faced the Minnesota Timberwolves in their Play-In Tournament match and clinched a 108-102 win, securing their spot in the Playoffs. The Los Angeles franchise made it to the Western Conference Finals but fell to No. 1 Denver Nuggets. 

If the Lakers end up in the Play-In Tournament again, can they become the first NBA Play-In team to secure the championship title?

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are no strangers to the NBA Playoffs, as James has appeared in 16 NBA Playoffs and Davis in five. Additionally, the two Lakers stars secured the 2020 NBA Championship title together for Los Angeles and could have another shot at the title this year if the L.A. franchise utilizes more players. 

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