With their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in position to make the Play-In Tournament. Darvin Ham’s team has fought hard since the trade deadline and came out of the All-Star break running with a 5-2 record.
The Lakers have been open about their goal of making not just the Play-In Tournament, but even moving beyond that and into a top six seed. So when Ham was asked how it felt to finally find themselves on the inside of the playoff picture, Ham said it was expected.
“It’s what we anticipated if we ever decided to be competitive, be together and be accountable,” the Lakers head coach said after Tuesday’s victory over the Grizzlies. “Obviously we’ve gone through injuries, roster changes and now our group is in such a great place mentally, spiritually, physically and you’re seeing it. If things go wrong in a game, those guys are still competing and fighting, moving on to the next play. So to go from being 2-10 to fighting and climbing, all of the ups and downs, the highs, the lows, I think it made us, being a Michigan guy, you can feel us being Ford tough.
“There’s nothing that can be thrown at us that we haven’t seen before and the guys are relishing in these moments,” Ham continued. “These high-intensity games, making big plays. We got big time players, young guys that are trying to establish themselves as being clutch. AD re-establishing himself, playing pain-free and being in a good rhythm and putting the team on his back on both sides of the ball. So it’s been great and we’re taking things one day at a time.”
One reason the Lakers have had this success, even with the injuries to LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell, has been their defense. Since returning from the All-Star break, the Lakers have the top-rated defense in the NBA and have held five of their seven opponents under 110 points. Ham is proud of this stat but understands this is something the Lakers can not lose focus of.
“I just think it’s one of those things where that’s what we have to hang our hat on,” Ham noted after Thursday’s practice. “We have more than enough scoring on our team up and down the roster but defense is something you can do right every night basically. We have to hang out hat on that, we have to be able to get stops.
“It’s funny, I think about the Clipper-Sacramento game and you think about scoring 175 points and still losing the game. That sucks. But at the end of the day, it’s like how many stops can you get. That was an enigma of a game, but for us, No. 1, it sends the right message throughout the team. We talked about it in film session today and everybody is excited and looking forward to doing more of the same.”
Continuing to play lockdown defense is a surefire way to keep rising in the standings. As Ham said, offense comes and goes, but defense is always something you can control and hang your hat on.
Anthony Davis says Lakers aren’t satisfied with Play-In Tournament spot, want to climb higher
This feeling is shared throughout the entire roster as superstar big man Anthony Davis made it clear that the Lakers aren’t satisfied at where they’re at.
“It’s good, but we’re not satisfied,” Davis said after Tuesday’s victory. “We don’t want to stop there. We want to be greedy. Get as many wins as possible and try to keep moving up that ladder. We still have to take care of business and do what we’re supposed to do. But it feels good to move up another spot and continue chasing our goals, which is to not only being in the Play-In but possibly secure a top-six spot.”
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