- The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
- LeBron James returned to action to score 16 points but missed the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
- The Lakers are just one-half game ahead of 6th place Dallas and one game in front of the 7th seeded Portland Trail Blazers with eight games left in the regular season.
The Los Angeles Lakers saw LeBron James return from a one month absence on Friday night. But even their king’s return wasn’t enough to stop the defending champions from skidding in the team standings.
Los Angeles recently saw Anthony Davis return but they still went 1-3 in his first three games back. With James back too, that record dropped to 1-4 in their last five games and 8-14 in their last 22 games overall.
At 35-27, the Lakers are still in 5th place in the Western Conference team standings but with less than 10 games to play in the regular season, catching up with the 4th seeded Denver Nuggets looks like mission impossible at six games behind. But that’s not the main concern.
6th seeded Dallas is just one-half game behind the Lakers in the playoff race. Falling to 6th would mean facing their cross town rival L.A. Clippers in round one instead of the Nuggets. Then there’s more.
7th seeded Portland is just one game back, If somehow Dallas and Portland overtake the Lakers in the standings, which isn’t mission impossible given the rate they are free falling, the defending champions could miss outright playoff qualification and would still have to go through a play-in tournament just to get to the postseason. That would be a disaster.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 1, 2021
James returned from the longest absence of his NBA career on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings and sadly for the Lakers’ faithful, it wasn’t enough. James scored 16 points on 6-12 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds and issuing seven assists with two steals. However, he shot just 1-5 from three-point distance and missed a game-winning triple at the buzzer.
It wasn’t that the Lakers played bad. They rallied from a 15-point deficit to take an 11-point lead of their own during the third quarter. But like it has been during their slump, their offense went to limp mode in the fourth quarter, allowing the gritty and determined Kings to come back and steal the game.
Sacramento played without De’Aaron Fox. Marving Bagley wasn’t there either. Despite that, the Kings won for the first time since 2018 at Staples Center and took their season series 2-1 behind a spirited game by rookie Tyrese Haliburton and the much-improved Richaun Holmes.
Updated Championship Odds
Updated NBA Championship odds 🏆:
+5000 Mavs pic.twitter.com/18T4RIqPB2
— theScore Bet (@theScoreBet) April 26, 2021
Looking at the updated NBA championship odds, it’s very interesting to see that the best NBA betting sites still have the Lakers with the second best odds to win the NBA championship. Los Angeles hasn’t moved from that position even after AD got hurt, then even after LeBron joined him in the sidelines, and even now that they’re both back and the Lakers still could not rediscover their winning form.
The oddsmakers still believe that when the playoffs come, it will be a different story. The Lakers will use the remainder of the regular season to build their chemistry and get both LeBron and AD back in top form. However, the Lakers only have eight games after Friday’s loss. And after another “easy” assignment against the Toronto Raptors, they play the Nuggets, Clippers, Blazers, Suns, and Knicks in succession.
That five-game stretch is going to be crucial. Not only will it reveal the Lakers’ form heading to the postseason, it will tell us if they will make the playoffs outright or not. Making a run at the NBA championship isn’t so much about talent and experience as often believed to be. It’s about a team peaking at the right time. Right now, the Lakers are too far from that and there may be no more time to get there.