The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a hot start in the second half of the 2020-21 season that suddenly put them back in the fight for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Even without Anthony Davis, L.A. won four straight games in a row after the All-Star break, moving up to second place in the West with a 28-13 record. The Lakers are closing the gap on the Utah Jazz, who passed the halfway mark of the current campaign with league-best 27 wins and nine losses.
But locking the No. 1 spot doesn’t feature high on L.A.’s priority list. “We haven’t really talked about it. If it gets to a point where we can capture it, I mean why not, but we haven’t talked about it at all,” said LeBron James. “We just talk about playing championship basketball through wins, through losses, whatever the case may be.”
James said he already noticed an improvement in the team’s performance since the games resumed after the mid-season break. But he then named health as the other key factor for the Lakers to a successful title defense this year. “If we’re healthy and we’re full, we can compete versus anyone in the world so that’s what’s important for us.”
Alex Caruso agreed with James on the significance of the No. 1 seed. The 27-year-old also explained the Lakers particularly focused on owning up to their mistakes in the last few games, which he claims resulted in the recent form surge.
“That was really the only difference in us in the first half and us in the second half so far,” he said. “Being able to hold each other accountable and make sure we’re not messing up on half the plays. It’s one out of every five or one out of every six and trying to build and do that moving forward.”
Frank Vogel again tips James to MVP award victory
Besides accountability, James’ form played a major role in the Lakers starting off in the second part of the season on a high note. The 36-year-old registered a triple-double in back-to-back games before dropping 37 points in the 116-105 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.
That prompted Lakers head coach Frank Vogel to reiterate that James should win his fifth MVP award this year. “We’re the No. 1 defense in the league without Anthony Davis for most of this season largely because of what he does with his play and his quarterbacking and his voice,” he explained.
“He has the ability to put up triple-doubles, score 30-40 points. He’s really doing it all for us.”
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