Since the start of the new year, the Los Angeles Lakers have seen tremendous growth from their young core, and it’s begun to show in the win column.
Despite the month-long absence of rookie Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have compiled a 12-5 record over their last 17 games. They’ve won eight consecutive games at home and find themselves in the vicinity of a postseason berth.
At 23-32, Los Angeles slots in as the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference and are 6.5 games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot.
During an interview with ESPN LA Radio, general manager Rob Pelinka shared his hope that the Lakers can build off their recent momentum and make a run in the closing months of the season:
“The last I checked the standings I think we’re still five or six wins back from being right in the mix. And we’d like to look at these two road games that we have against the Pelicans and the Timberwolves and say, ‘Hey, let’s try to get two road wins, go into All-Star break and we’re still a stones throw away, why not chase that eighth spot and see if we can get close?’ We have a great group, these guys are growing. For our young players to be able to have that as a target, let’s stay locked into it and see what happens.”
Newcomer Isaiah Thomas expressed the same optimism as Pelinka and immediately compared his teammates to the 2014-15 Boston Celtics — a team also flush with young talent that snuck into the playoffs after a second-half surge.
The Lakers look to end the unofficial first half of the season on a strong note, beginning with a road contest against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. They then head north to take on another postseason contender in the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If the Lakers are to notch back-to-back wins, it will need to come without Ball, who was officially ruled out for the road trip. Beyond that, the Lakers may face a challenge from potentially overcoming and holding off the streaking Utah Jazz.
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