Only a consistent effort will pull the Lakers through
For the first time since the Lakers previously played against Miami, Los Angeles has lost not because of effort but simply because of execution. Miami's defense made the plays down the stretch of the fourth quarter, and LeBron James was just in another world.
I give them a hearty golf clap and move on. What I saw from the Lakers showed me that if they play with the same effort over the last 30 games of this NBA season, they will be in the NBA playoffs. Lost in the disappointment is that the Lakers had a winning road trip for the first time all year.
As much as Lakers fans everywhere would have wanted to get a win against the champion Heat, the most disheartening loss was the one in Phoenix. The Lakers tried to coast to the tape in the fourth quarter, and it cost them. Losing to a hot Celtics team and to the world champions is nothing to be ashamed of.
Before the immediate retorts pop up, remember this: The Lakers were 5-15 entering this road trip. Any notions of games they should have won go right out the window. They are 9-18 on the road, which means there are more games at home than away the rest of the year, and Staples Center has to be a safe haven the rest of the year.
You see, I project the Lakers needing to win 46 games to make the playoffs. Houston and Utah have both been fantastic at home this year (18-8 and 19-6, respectively). Like the Lakers, both teams have a balance of home and road games the remainder of the year. In other words, the Lakers have to all but win out at home.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs?
Assuming that the Lakers went 15-1 at home the remainder of the year (definitely possible), that would give them 39 wins. That means they would have to play .500 on the road the remainder of the year. There are no gimmes anymore. This latest game against Miami should serve as a harbinger of how the Lakers have to play to win the rest of this regular season.
In other words, value the basketball (only seven turnovers through three quarters) and make efficient offensive plays. Getting outrebounded by nine was an aberration. There won't be the chore of defending LeBron James and Dwyane Wade over the last 30 games. It's about effort. If the Los Angeles Lakers come to play, there's enough talent to make a playoff push after the All-Star break.
However, if the Hollywood Lakers show up anymore, there won't be enough time for this team to do anything else but play out the string. As we all know, if you're not successful in Hollywood, your show gets cancelled.