Playoff LeBron has been activated and I’m all in on the Lakers late season playoff push. In the first game back from the break, Los Angeles took on the 5th seeded Houston Rockets in a very important game for LA. This was essentially a must win for the Lakers, and after just 1 quarter, their playoff chances looked bleak.
While they were able to cut the Houston lead to just 6 at the half, the Lakers looked thoroughly outmatched throughout the majority of the game. Houston stars James Harden and Chris Paul got into foul trouble early, while PF Kenneth Faried had what looked like a breakout game. 13 points on 83% shooting as well as 6 rebounds, bringing incredible efficiency in his short 18 minutes coming off the bench. Harden played relatively poorly, especially throughout the 2nd half, but was just barely able to extend his historic 30 point game streak to 32.
LeBron and the Lakers also played particularly poorly, yet a strong stretch between the late 3rd quarter and 4th quarter propelled the impressive comeback. James seemed to struggle in the first half, leading to questions about his earlier “playoff mode activated” comments. The team as a whole shot EXTREMELY poorly from the 3, most of which were wide open. An abysmal 26% from 3 made me extremely skeptical that a comeback effort would be possible.
Nonetheless, LeBron made up for his poor 1st half by finishing with 29 points and 12 boards as well as pouring in an additional 6 assists. As well as LeBron, Brandon Ingram had a very good game with 27 points and 13 rebounds. The strangest stat of the game actually came from Josh Hart. Hart, coming off an injury that sidelined him for a few weeks put up an incredible +22 +/- in 19 minutes. With only 4 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist, this line goes to show how much of a role Hart played on defense.
A great comeback for LA, and a much needed win to kick off their playoff push. Currently sitting at the 10 seed, the Lakers have roughly 8-9 losses to play with if they want any chance at making the 8 seed, and 6-7 if they want to avoid the Warriors by sneaking into the 6 or 7th spot. It’s a day to celebrate, but the young Lakers must take this stretch one game at a time, and need to string together a few wins over the Pelicans/Grizzlies before they become too confident in their playoff chances.