The Los Angeles Lakers routing the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day represented their best win of the season at the time but has since become a turning point — in a negative sense — for the team.
LeBron James suffered a strained left groin in the third quarter, couldn’t return, and is due to miss a 16th consecutive game on Sunday. Rajon Rondo played through a sprained right ring finger but underwent surgery two days later and missed 14 games.
The Lakers have lost three in a row and are 5-10 since Christmas. They’ve tumbled from fourth in the Western Conference standings to ninth, and also lost Lonzo Ball until after the All-Star break because of Grade 3 sprained left ankle.
Additionally, Kyle Kuzma is battling a hip strain and Josh Hart was held out of practice on Saturday because of a balky knee. Despite the mounting injuries and prolonged struggles, Lakers head coach Luke Walton remains pleased with his team’s mindset.
“It’s good,” he said of their morale. “It’s one of the things I love about this group. They come in and work. They take losses hard, as they should, but there’s no coming in and pouting and moping around. Walk down here, and there’s energy in the building.
“Before practice, guys are getting work in the weight room and on the court, and doing it again afterwards.”
Although the Lakers are currently out of the playoff picture, they trail the Clippers by just two games. They are 3.5 games back of the fifth-seed Houston Rockets, but by that same token, 2.5 games from slipping to 12th place.
The gap between the themselves and the Rockets is what Walton previously said he prefers to focus on. And because the Lakers remain in the playoff picture this late into the season, he said there’s more excitement than prior years when the sole focus was on development and rebuilding.
Reminder: Vivid Seats is the Official Ticket Reseller of LakersNation.com. New Customers use “LAKERSNATION” (all CAPS) in the Vivid Seats App on your phone and get 10% off any Lakers home game ticket order for the remainder of the season.