LeBron James: Lakers Felt ‘Connected’ In First Game After Trade Deadline
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers put together one of their best performances of the season against the Western Conference’s No. 2 team, the Golden State Warriors. Although it wound up in a 117-115 loss, LeBron James and the Lakers looked as energized as they had all season to this point.

Throughout the 2021-22 season, the Lakers have had a tendency to lose their focus, let leads slip, and play overall sloppy basketball for long stretches. However, they were engaged and went shot-for-shot with one of the best teams in the league this season.

James felt a difference in the team’s energy between their most recent games and Saturday’s loss to the Warriors. “I thought we were connected from the very first jump ball and obviously the result is a lot different than we would like, but that’s as connected we’ve been in quite a while, so it was good to have a good feeling out there.”

Part of the reason for this could be the passing of the NBA trade deadline, at which the Lakers made zero moves. James believes the ending of the rumors could have been a game-changer.

“I think the trade deadline is over. So a lot of people got an opportunity to move on and know this is what we have, we are going to be together and now we make a push.”

Focusing in on the deadline, James revealed how the team went about the constant barrage of rumors. “We’re all grown men. You don’t need to come together and talk about it. You just know. It affects people in different ways, the deadline. It’s human nature. You hear your name talked about in trades and things of that nature, so it’s human nature to think about it and either worry about it to have it grasp your mind from time to time.

“There’s no need to talk about it. We had a great practice yesterday and it resulted in the way we played today.”

Saturday’s loss dropped the Lakers to 26-31, their worst record of the season, with their next six games coming against teams currently in the playoffs or the Play-In Tournament. However, if there is a silver lining, it’s the way L.A. banded together against a quality opponent.

There are 25 games remaining in the Lakers’ regular season. If they want to have any chances of a deep playoff run, they must use Saturday’s performance as a springboard to pick up big wins now. L.A. is 5.5 games back of the No. 6 seed, meaning they’ll need to be close to perfect from now on to get out of the Play-In Tournament.

Austin Reaves praised for Warriors performance

Reaves was arguably among the best Lakers players during Saturday night’s loss, and was rightfully praised by Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook after the game.

“He’s a solid all-around player,” Vogel said. “He was very impressive down the stretch. Making big plays offensively. He’s got a great computer to process help and see whether to shoot or make the extra pass. Obviously, he’s got a lot of guts to make big shots and he really competes on the defensive side. He’s got a really good IQ down on that end. He had a hell of a night.”

Aside from Vogel, Westbrook was just impressed and said Reaves has a bright NBA future ahead of him.

“I thought he did a good job, man. Being solid. People always underestimate his ability to make the right plays and tonight he did a good job on both ends. His energy was high and he continues to do that, he’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. He did a good job for us tonight,” Westbrook said.

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