The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff fate has been sealed for over a week. They clinched the Western Conference’s top seed for the first time in a decade, and ensuing seeding games have been mathematically meaningless since that point.
The Lakers have played like a team with nothing to win rather than nothing to lose. Entering Monday’s matchup, they have have lost three consecutive games, which is their longest skid since the team lost four in a row in late December.
Despite the Lakers not standing to gain from anything with respect to the standings, head coach Frank Vogel has continued to keep players on the floor for largely regular minutes as he experiments with rotations.
That practice would appear to go agains Vogel’s emphasis of prioritizing health for the playoffs, but he views that as being in shape as well.
“The balance for me is when we talk about being as healthy as we can, that includes conditioning,” Vogel explained. “In particular, our main guys have to be ready and feel what it’s like to push high 30s in their minutes. That’s not about anything other than getting them ready and into game shape in the playoffs.
“So you may see that over the next couple games, where those guys play bigger minutes. That’s part of being healthy, is having legs under you. We’ll do that and continue to try to work on the rhythm of our team.”
LeBron James rested for only the fourth time this season against the Houston Rockets and was noticeably more aggressive in his return against the Indiana Pacers, scoring 31 points on 54% shooting.
Meanwhile, Davis has cooled off since his 42-point outburst against the Utah Jazz. He has scored a combined 34 points in three games since and is yet to convert on a single 3-pointer since draining four against Utah.
Vogel respecting all potential Western Conference eighth-seeded teams
The bottom of the Western Conference has boiled down to a four-team race between the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns. Vogel said that the Lakers don’t have a preferred opponent and added that any of the remaining squads could be a threat in the postseason.
“I will say all these teams that are competing for that eighth spot, I don’t believe we’re going to get a typical eight seed in that matchup,” he said. “The West is loaded, there’s a lot of good teams in there, and we’re going to get a team with some serious firepower.”
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