The Los Angeles Lakers went through their most brutal stretch of schedule towards the end of April when they lost a string of games to inferior opponents. Even though Frank Vogel did not have all of his weapons at his disposal, and Anthony Davis was not yet himself despite being back in the lineup, the Lakers were still losing some really ugly games.
The pinnacle of this was back-to-back losses to the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors. Both losses came at home with James actually in the lineup — although he was nowhere near 100% — and it was the first time that questions really began circulating about whether or not the Lakers could win a championship this season.
Davis recalled what Vogel said to the team after that loss and what their mindset has been since that led to the turnaround. “I think Coach told us after that [Toronto Raptors] game. He said, ‘Stay together. Imagine where we’ll be in two weeks.’ It’s been two weeks to the day, so we’re a much better team, a much healthier team, which is most important.
“We’re finding our rhythm on both ends of the floor. We’re in a position to be the seventh seed after the game against Golden State if we win that one and have a chance to go into the playoffs and make some noise. We’re not in a position that we want to be, but we’re definitely in a better position than we were two weeks ago.”
Vogel went into detail about what he said to his team after that loss and what they needed to do to recover. “I think at one point we had lost eight out of 10 and we were fighting through either guys being out or coming back not in great shape or not in rhythm and trying to find their game again. You find stretches like that throughout certain seasons and the message was remain together, let’s not anybody overreact.
“Nobody is happy that we lost these games but we’re gonna be OK if we stay the course, keep grinding, keep having a growth mindset each day and understanding that two weeks forward from that point, two weeks further into our guys getting healthy, we’re gonna feel a lot differently about our team. That is where we’re at right now, we won a few games in a row, four games in a row, five games in a row, something like that. LeBron, Dennis getting back in the lineup and getting a little bit stronger each game. We feel good about where we’re at. Obviously you wish you had a couple more weeks to get healthy but like I said, feel good with where we’re at.”
Vogel denied that the Raptors’ loss was anything worse than just a bad loss, however.
“I don’t think that things were unraveling, I think that we just were all frustrated that we weren’t winning games at that point and with where everybody was at with their health and coming back from injuries and just how we were playing overall.
“But I just wanted to make sure that our guys remained confident in where we were going and where we were going to be. But I never felt like things were unraveling, that was the point behind the message, we’re gonna be OK. And I think you’re just gonna have emotions after losing, it’s human nature with great competitors and champions that we have on this team and just wanted to make sure that we were steering the ship on the right course.”
Since that loss, the Lakers have certainly turned things around. They’ve gone 6-2, including wins against the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. They also got James and Dennis Schroder back in the lineup and were completely healthy for the final weekend of the season.
Now, one of their two losses came to the Portland Trail Blazers, which is the reason they now have to play in the Play-In Tournament instead of being the No. 6 seed. But that’s something they will figure out as this week progresses. The positive news is that the Lakers are once again playing great basketball and are healthy at the perfect time.
Davis discussed challenge of facing Warriors in Play-In Game
After the dust was settled and the Lakers were locked into the Play-In Tournament, Davis did his best to look on the bright side and prepare himself for the challenge ahead. “We’re going to face Golden State and we’re going to do everything we can to win that game to be the seventh seed in the playoffs.
“We’re not happy where we are. We know we could be better. Injuries took a toll on us this season. Me and Bron missing a lot of games this year with our injuries. When we’re healthy, we saw what we can be. When we’re not healthy, this is the position we’re in. We won’t call this successful until we raise a banner, but we’re in a position to do something special no matter what seed we’re in. It’s only unsuccessful if we don’t win it all.
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