When the 1-4 Lakers fired Mike Brown, it was hard to imagine the season getting much worse in Los Angeles. But nearly 30 games later, despite playing a reasonable schedule, with more home than road games, the Lakers are still three games under .500, at 15-18. Los Angeles currently sits 3.5 games back of the 20-16 Nuggets and Trail Blazers for the Western Conference's final two playoff spots.
As Ric Bucher of the 95.7 The Game points out (via Sulia), we may be nearing a tipping point, where the idea of the Lakers making the postseason is more far-fetched than the idea that they won't. After all, if Denver's and Portland's current pace of 46 wins represents the price of admission to the postseason in the West, the Lakers would have to go 31-18 the rest of the way to get there. For a team that's currently without Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Jordan Hill, that could be a very tall order.
Still, as Zach Lowe of Grantland writes, the Lakers have had a borderline top-five offense and the NBA's eighth-best point differential, which suggests some potential for a turnaround. And it's not as if they'd have to pass a collection of juggernauts in the Western Conference standings. The Timberwolves are banged up, the Jazz have played sub-.500 ball, and two of the teams currently in the top eight, the Rockets and Trail Blazers, are young and fairly unproven.
One thing is clear: The Lakers can no longer be considered a playoff lock. And if the team does crack the top eight, it figures to face a team like the Thunder, Clippers, or Spurs in the first round, without homecourt advantage. What do you think? Will the Lakers make a second-half run and appear in the postseason, or will the injuries and the slow start be too much to overcome?