The home stretch of the 2020-21 season has been rough for the Los Angeles Lakers despite getting LeBron James and Anthony Davis back in the starting lineup.
The Lakers dropped another game on Sunday night, but it was in embarrassing fashion as they were thoroughly outplayed by a shorthanded Toronto Raptors squad. Toronto was missing several starters, but the Lakers failed to contain Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, who combined for 76 of the Raptors’ 121 points on the evening.
For a team with championship hopes, L.A. certainly has not looked like one at all in the past few weeks. Their lack of effort, intensity and focus on both ends is alarming and that has led to fans clamoring that they will not get very far in the playoffs. Normally even-keeled, head coach Frank Vogel offered a blunt assessment of where his team currently stands.
“We’re just not playing well right now,” Vogel admitted. “We’re working through that stuff. We definitely missed some 50-50 balls where Toronto was quicker to it. They’re playing some bench guys, they’re playing with energy that don’t typically get the opportunity.
“Some of those possessions we just looked like we were stuck in mud, but we got a good team. We got a good process to evaluate and grow and make adjustments and that’s what we’ve got to do right now.”
Vogel was actually happy with how the Lakers played in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough to come away with the win.
“We played three pretty good quarters. We just let the game get away from us in that second quarter, similar to the Orlando [Magic] game last week. We were able to prevail in the second half and get the game back under control. We played better in the second half, but we battled two guys that got super hot. All-Star-level players in Pascal [Siakim] and Kyle [Lowry] and they were too much for us.”
Vogel tried to remain optimistic, noting that the Lakers still can turn things around given the depth and talent on the roster.
“We know what we’re going to look like when we’re whole. It’s tough to lose Dennis [Schroder] when you are trying to not overdo LeBron’s usage from a point guard standpoint. I thought Talen [Horton-Tucker] and Alex [Caruso] battled in there, but it wasn’t enough.
“We just got to sustain belief in what we can be when we get whole and continue to push through this stretch, which we knew would be an adjustment period.”
It is important to note that Dennis Schroder was a late scratch against Toronto due to health and safety protocols, while also remembering that James and Davis are still working their way back into game shape and speed. The obstacles sound like excuses at this point, but they are the difficult realities Los Angeles has to deal with as they try to get themselves out of the mud.
With their recent loss, the Lakers now sit in a three-way tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers for seeds 5-7 in the West. It did not seem fathomable that the Purple and Gold would have to earn their playoff spot, but it is looking more and more likely that they may be playing additional games.
Vogel focused on winning games despite lineup shuffling
Vogel previously emphasized that he has been actively trying to work different guys into the lineup in order to get everyone ready for the postseason which has resulted in lineups that have not played many minutes together. However, he was adamant that his tinkering does not take away from his goal of competing and winning.
“We’re not trying to experiment in any way right now. We’re trying to win games, but working in two guys coming off long injury absences and a couple new players. We just got to work through that.”
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