As the Los Angeles Lakers were unable to remain afloat during the prolonged stretch LeBron James and Rajon Rondo missed because of injury, pressure began to steadily mount. That amplified as the Lakers went into the All-Star break on a 2-4 slide, even with James and Rondo playing.
The Lakers reached the break in the schedule one game below .500, three games back of the Clippers for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and only 25 games remaining on their schedule.
Despite falling behind by as many as 19 points, the Lakers returned from the All-Star break with an impressive win against the Houston Rockets. Though, it’s since been followed by consecutive road losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies.
When asked if the pressure of making a playoff push was serving as a distraction, LeBron James emphatically shot the notion down, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“At this point, if you are still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of. You should just come in and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’ Like seriously, if you’re distracted by playoff pushes, out of all the stuff they’ve been talking about this year? Just come and do your job at a high level. That’s not a distraction. That’s what you want. Every game you want to feel like you’re fighting for something.”
That James would so strongly disagree that a push toward the playoffs is anything but a positive is hardly a surprise. He’s considered one of the game’s greatest players of all time, reached the NBA Finals eight straight years and hasn’t missed the playoffs since his second season.
Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies prevented the Lakers from gaining ground on the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings. It also dropped them closer to 12th place (2.5 games) than moving into the playoffs by catching the Spurs at eighth, who are three games up on the Lakers.
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