The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a 126-121 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, but they could leave Crypto.com Arena with their heads held high.
L.A. faced one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Yet, the Purple and Gold played with determination and effort, putting up a fight and proving their form keeps trending up.
On Wednesday, five Lakers ended up in double-digits, with Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook leading the way, chipping in 24 points each. That helped L.A. come back within four points late, falling 14 points behind in the third quarter.
“We’re making progress,” head coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “We’re building habits that are going to win for us in the postseason, and we’re continuing to grow.
“I think this game we’re disappointed that we lost, but without Bron, without AD. I think the group that played tonight showed everyone that we still have a whole lot of fight left in us.”
Vogel said he was “proud” of how the Lakers competed against Joel Embiid, James Harden, and their 76ers.
“We continue to evolve, and when we get to the finish line of the 82 games, again, we’re not going to be the same exact group that played 10 games under .500 basketball. That’s the goal is what can we build that is going to win for us in the postseason and in the play-in game. We’re making progress with that. We fell short tonight, but pleased with the effort,” he said.
The Lakers are yet to secure a spot in the Play-In Tournament, facing the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday in a key clash for their postseason hopes. But Vogel said he felt confident coming into the decisive part of 2021-22.
“We’ve got to win as many games as we can, but you play this game without LeBron [James] and AD, and you compete the way you did, you are proud of the effort and the fight,” he said.
“What you are looking for is signs of life from our group that we’re gonna have a belief and confidence that we’re gonna get in those play-in games, and win in those play-in games. I feel good about where we’re going and where our direction is and where we’re going to be 10 to nine games from now.”
Westbrook expects playoff-like atmosphere in Lakers’ clash with Pelicans
The Lakers and the Pelicans currently occupy the last two Play-In spots in the Western Conference, meaning they could face off in the first phase of the tournament.
The winner of the Sunday matchup will make a big step toward securing ninth place in the Western Conference, which will host the 10th side in the Play-In.
Westbrook expects the clash to have a playoff feel to it, considering the stakes.
“It’s a game that we definitely want to win,” Westbrook said.
“I think if we have our mindset in the right place and do what we’ve been doing, play the right type of basketball, it will put us in position to be able to win the game. It’s gonna be a playoffs type of atmosphere for us because it’s definitely a must-win, I believe for our group.”