Jan 9, 2013, 12:15 AM EDT
For the past five years, it has taken at least 45 wins to make the playoffs in the Western Conference (technically Utah had 36 wins last season because of the lockout, but that was a 45-win pace). Coming into Tuesday night, Denver was the eight seed in the West and they are on pace for 46 wins.
For the Lakers to get to 45 wins this season they will need to go 30-18 the rest of the way. That stretch includes the Lakers annual “Grammy” trip when Taylor Swift and fun. kick the Lakers out of Staples for a seven-game road trip.
The Lakers need to start winning games now to even make the playoffs.
They didn’t do that Tuesday night. Playing without Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill — all three bigs out with injuries — the Lakers went small and tried to run with the Houston Rockets. The team that plays at the fastest pace in the league.
The result was predictable with the Lakers poor transition defense — a 125-112 Rockets win. That is the fourth straight loss for the Lakers, who have the second night of a back-to-back in San Antonio on Wednesday then host the Thunder on Friday, both games likely without their bigs.
The losing streak could reach six, and the Lakers would need to go 30-16 just to get to 45 wins. Which may not be enough to make the playoffs.
Tuesday night the Lakers looked plucky to start the game as Steve Nash was picking apart the Rockets (especially when they sideline trapped him), and starting center Robert Sacre looked pretty good and had a dunk. The Lakers early lead stretched out to 18-4 as Metta World Peace and Darius Morris hit threes.
But at the end of the day the Lakers were going to need to have good transition defense to win this game and they haven’t shown that consistently all season.
By late in the second quarter the game was close again as Carlos Delfino seemed to always be wide open. The Rockets went on an 18-2 third quarter run and the Lakers tried but could never close the gap after that.
James Harden attacked and tore up the Lakers defense to the tune of 31 points and 9 assists. Sacre tried but the Lakers missed an inside presence to turn away Rockets penetration in the half court.
Kobe was off, scoring 20 but needing 22 shots to do it (but adding 7 assists). World Peace led the Lakers with 24.
It’s a loss the Lakers can have plenty of excuses for, but the time for excuses is past. If they don’t start winning soon Jim Buss can ask Donald Sterling for tips on how to throw a good lottery party.
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