The brutal seven-game road trip the Los Angeles Lakers are battling has started off 1-1 in the first two games, leaving head coach Frank Vogel and company with five more tough matchups left.
After freezing the surging Sacramento Kings by 21 points off the hands of a 3-point barrage, the Lakers unraveled when they returned to Los Angeles to take on the L.A. Clippers; they failed to generate any momentum, and when they did, the Clippers swiftly responded.
Looking ahead, the five remaining opponents for the Lakers are all from the Eastern Conference: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. The Raptors are the only team not in a playoff spot, as they’re currently in 11th place; every other opponent would be a playoff team if the postseason commenced today.
That leaves the Lakers in a rough situation. Already undermanned, the odds are against L.A., and Vogel explained how the Lakers could conclude the grueling road trip on a positive note.
“We’ve got to play with poise and composure that we played with in Sacramento offensively and the shots get a little more easy, a little more confident, and continue to defend,” Vogel said. “We defended well enough to win a game today, but we’ve just got to improve with our offensive execution.”
The precarious position the Lakers are in makes mental challenges more ubiquitous, especially in a season enmeshed in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Vogel said L.A. must fight through the obstacles because they’re equipped with the players to do so.
“No, there’s no excuses here,” Vogel said. “The guys that are playing have what it takes to get the job done. It’s that simple.”
With the Raptors next on the schedule, the first time they’ll meet this season, Vogel explained how L.A. will prepare for that contest and the subsequent ones.
“One game at a time,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to beat the [Toronto] Raptors. That’s what it comes down to. We’ll do a little work. We’ll compete and see what happened in this game. Break down the film, improve from it and put together a plan to beat the Raptors. Take it one game at a time.”
Vogel says Lakers are not concerned with Western Conference standings
Without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers have slowly descended in the Western Conference playoff race. Once right behind the first-seed Utah Jazz, L.A. is currently fifth, with the sixth-seed Portland Trail Blazers, 0.5 games behind Los Angeles, breathing down their neck.
Seeding is pivotal in the playoffs, as a higher seed typically equates to an easier path to the finals. The Lakers could end up as one of the lower seeds when the playoffs commence, but Vogel said L.A. is not focused on what seed they’ll be.
“We’re really staying in the moment and we had an opportunity to get past the Clippers with a win today. Disappointed we didn’t get that done, but other than that, we’re not looking at the standings at all. We’re just looking at winning the next game,” Vogel said.
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