Head coach Frank Vogel faces a significant challenge in leading the Los Angeles Lakers toward a postseason appearance after entering the All-Star break as the ninth Western Conference team.
L.A. won just two of the 10 games before the All-Star Weekend, going into the mid-season intermission with a 27-31 record. The Lakers fell 6.0 games behind the Denver Nuggets in sixth — the last place that secures a spot in the playoffs without participating in the play-in tournament.
The Purple and Gold have just 24 games left to improve their record. But, as the time is running out, even head coach Frank Vogel has started paying attention to the standings.
“After wins I do. Not after losses. I tend to not look at it too much after losses. I did look today to just see where we’re at,” Vogel said before the 106-101 win over the Utah Jazz.
“We’re six games out of the top six, which is a big number.”
Vogel said he used the Lakers’ position in the standings to motivate the team ahead of the clash with the Jazz. L.A. then beat one of the hottest teams in the NBA, ending Utah’s six-game winning streak.
The Purple and Gold return to the court on Friday, taking on the L.A. Clippers. The Lakers have one of the toughest schedules in the NBA, featuring nine matchups with teams from the West’s top-6 during the last weeks of the regular season.
Russell Westbrook believes Lakers play with more pace since trade deadline
The Lakers looked uplifted after the trade deadline day passed on Feb. 10, ending the many rumors involving Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker. Westbrook could see more pace in L.A.’s game, leading to two good performances against the Golden State Warriors and the Jazz.
“We’re playing different. A lot more kick-aheads, we’re not playing it slow,” the Lakers point guard said. “The past two games we’ve played a lot faster. Our wings are running and doing a good job of cutting, including myself, just moving the ball and putting people in positions where they can be successful.
“I think we’ve done a better job of that the last two games of just allowing the guys to use our weapons the right way and making sure that we continue to do that for 48 minutes, regardless of what’s going on. To me, obviously the change in how we play and our pace and different things of that nature.”