The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fourth-straight game last night, falling to 15-19 on the season.
According to ESPN’s playoff odds calculator, there’s now only a 30.5 % chance that they make the playoffs (analysis below):
In the standings, the Lakers are currently in 11th place, four games back of a playoff spot.
Going into the season, some people expected the Lakers to underachieve because of chemistry issues, age, and lack of depth. But not even the biggest Laker haters thought a team with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Steven Nash could miss the playoffs entirely.
So what has gone wrong?
- Injuries. Steve Nash went down with a broken leg, Pau Gasol went down with tendinitis and now a concussion, and Dwight Howard is now out a couple of games because of a shoulder injury.
- Age. Pau Gasol has regressed, and Kobe’s defence has slipped considerably. Speaking of…
- defence. This is the biggest issue. The Lakers are 7th in the league in offensive efficiency, and 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency. They’ve only held three of their last 10 opponents under 100 points. Going into the year, people thought that their weak perimeter D wouldn’t be a problem because they had Howard to protect the rim. But it turns out that Howard hasn’t been as good as he was when he was fully healthy, and everything has slipped as a result.
Here’s the scary reality: In the last five full NBA seasons (excluding last year’s lockout year), the 8th playoff team in the West has averaged 47.2 wins. For the Lakers to get to that number now, they would have to go 32-16 the rest of the year — a winning percentage that’s only slightly below the pace the Miami Heat are playing at right now.
So to turn it around, the Lakers will have to start playing as good as the Heat almost immediately. It’s possible, but increasingly unlikely.
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