The Los Angeles Lakers recorded a big win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, improving their record to 7-5, entering the play-in tournament zone. The purple and gold had big expectations after a moved offseason, landing a series of talented players that seemingly lifted their level.
So far, they are struggling the get things going, recording bad games against weaker rivals, setting the alarms at Staples Center. Without LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have taken over although they haven't been at their best either.
Russ has had bad outings recently and AD has been bothered by injuries. This doesn't look that promising for the Lakers, and ESPN's analyst Stephen A. Smith believes they could make the playoffs although a second-round exit is the best they can hope for right now.
"At this particular juncture, a berth to the second round of the playoffs and that's about all. I'm not predicting that's gonna happen just yet, but they're giving us no to be enthusiastic. LeBron James looks relatively human. Can we count on Carmelo Anthony this year? 52% from 3-point range and 50% from the field? As good as I know he is, and as proud as I am of him of still being in this league, I don't think we can count on those numbers to continue, and then there is Russell Westbrook. [He's] averaging 18, 8 and 8, but shooting 25% from 3-point range, about 41% from the field, that's not going to cut it," Smith said on NBA Countdown Wednesday night.
Smith explained that the rest of the Western Conference is stacked with good teams including the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and especially the Golden State Warriors.
If the Lakers want to beat these squads and return to the top of the league, they will need to do better. They are still working on team chemistry, trying to know each other and find their touch. The bright side is that they're 7-5 and can manage to survive while LeBron is inactive.
However, seeing how they've played in the first three weeks of competition, it'll be hard to see this squad having a deep playoff run next year.