It Would Be "Major" If LeBron, Lakers Miss Playoffs

LeBron James says he is in playoff mode, but what if the Lakers miss the postseason?

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
February 22, 2019 - 8:26 am
LeBron James Marcus Smart Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics

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After announcing that he has “activated” playoff mode, LeBron James led the Lakers to a 111-106 win over the Rockets on Thursday. James finished with 29 points,11 rebounds and six assists, helping Los Angeles (29-29) overcome a 19-point deficit in the process.

So, what exactly is “playoff mode,” and where was it earlier in the season?

“It means you change your approach to the game, change your attitude,” L.A. Times Lakers reporter Brad Turner said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “When you start getting into playoff mode, knowing every game counts, every possession counts, every defensive stand counts. He normally doesn’t do that until the playoffs start, but the Lakers are not in the playoffs. They began tonight in the 10th seed. They were three games behind the Clippers. So if they want to make the playoffs, they have to essentially play playoff-type basketball.

All five Lakers starters finished in double figures against Houston (33-25), including Brandon Ingram, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma, who had 18 points and six rebounds. Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, had a team-high seven assists of the bench.

As the only Lakers with championship rings, James and Rondo will provide leadership to a young team down the stretch.

“They know how to change their focus and to become more locked in,” Turner said. “So for him, it means playing his best basketball of the season right now and then you worry about the playoffs when they get here – if you get into the playoffs.”

The Lakers still trail the Kings (30-28) and Clippers (32-27) in the West. How shocking would it be if James is unable to end the Lakers’ playoff drought?

“It would be major,” Turner said. “I think everyone anticipated that being the case when LeBron James decided to sign with the team. We can’t forget that at one point, the Lakers were the 4-seed in the West. The next thing you know, they were hit with injuries. LeBron was out with the groin. Rajon Rondo went out. Lonzo Ball is still out. Kyle Kuzma missed games. Brandon Ingram missed games. So when you have four or five of your top eight players missing games, I don’t think anyone could sustain that. They lost some games that they should not have lost. This is where they are, and we’ll see how it plays out for them.”