LeBron James’ team is on a winning streak, but it’s not the Los Angeles Lakers.
James scored 30 points and hit the winning shot in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday as Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 163-160. It was the fifth straight victory for all-star teams led by the future Hall-of Famer against no losses.
However, his Lakers are not doing so well. They’ve lost seven of their last 10 games going into the All-Star break and are not only in fourth place in the NBA Pacific, but also a precarious ninth place in the Western Conference, behind the eighth-place Clippers.
The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. But there’s a play-in opportunity for the teams ranked seventh through 10th, so the Lakers still cling to a slender hope.
That hope got even slimmer on Thursday when Anthony Davis sprained his right ankle in the Lakers’ 106-101 win over Jazz. He’s expected to be out for around four weeks.
“We have to win as many games as we can and believe in who we have,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “We have a deep team. Certain guys may be in and out of the rotation but everyone is going to be needed.”
Experts can chatter about the possible strategies to be employed to make up for Davis’ 23.1 points a game. But the Lakers’ problem is a little more broad-based than that.
Simply put, the Lakers can’t win on the road. They’re 18-13 at Crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) but 9-18 away from L.A. The classic formula for doing well in sports is to win at home and break even on the road. If the Lakers did that – improved their “away” mark to 14-13 or even 13-14, they’d have 42 or 41 wins and be battling for second place in their division instead of sinking toward he bottom.
That’s what the “real” Team LeBron needs to do or risk spending the spring watching the playoffs in front of a TV set.
The Ducks hit an icy patch
So far, February has not been a good month for the Anaheim Ducks. They lost three games in a row, including a loss to the NHL-worst Seattle Kraken. They finally snapped the streak with a 7-4 win over Vancouver.
However, that tumble followed a five-game winning streak, so the fellows from Honda Center are still in pretty good shape as far as playoff hopes go. They are 24-19-9, good for 57 points and sixth place in the Western Conference.
To do so, the Ducks (or Kings) will have to be among the top three teams in the NHL Pacific Division or be one of two wild card teams from the conference to qualify.
That could be a heavy lift, but it’s not impossible. Anaheim will probably have to win 60 to 65 percent of its remaining games; oddsmakers give them a 26.5 percent chance of doing that.
As for the Kings (26-17-7), they are given a better chance at 83.7 percent chance. That seems strange, considering that they’re just two points – one win – apart. So one sure-fire way to improve their the chances is for the Ducks to a) win a bunch more games and b) defeat the Kings when they meet on Feb. 25 and April 19 and 23.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica with wire service reports.