HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The ditch is just a little bit deeper this morning.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost their fourth straight game on Wednesday. They’re now 12-20 under Mike D’Antoni, 5-11 since Steve Nash‘s return, and a brutal 2-10 in January.
The Lakers are just four games out of eighth place, but they’re eight games under .500. If you assume that it will take 45 wins to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, the Lakers would need to finish the season 28-12 to get there.
The good news is that neither the 21-21 Portland Trail Blazers (who had lost six straight before beating the Pacers on Wednesday) nor the 22-22 Houston Rockets (who have lost eight of their last nine) are playing well, so it might not take 45 wins to get in.
The other good news is that it’s not unprecedented for a 17-25 team to turn its season around and make the postseason, even in the Western Conference.
The last team to do it in the West was the 2004-05 Denver Nuggets, who were 17-25 under Jeff Bzdelik and interim coach Michael Cooper. Then they brought in George Karl, who led them to a 32-8 record over their last 40 games.
At 49-33, those Nuggets were the No. 7 seed in the West, and they got knocked out in the first round (4-1) by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
According to Elias, here are the last five teams to make the playoffs in the West after a 17-25 start or worse…
|Season||Team||First 42||Last 40||Total||Seed||Playoffs|
|2004-05||Denver||17-25||32-8||49-33||7||Lost in 1st round, 4-1|
|1996-97||Phoenix||15-27||25-15||40-42||7||Lost in 1st round, 3-2|
|1996-97||L.A. Clippers||17-25||19-21||36-46||8||Lost in 1st round, 3-0|
|1985-86||Sacramento||16-26||21-19||37-45||7||Lost in 1st round, 3-0|
|1983-84||Kansas City||17-25||21-19||38-44||8||Lost in 1st round, 3-0|
The ’04-05 Nuggets are the only team above that finished with a winning record. The other four benefited from a weaker conference and/or a league with fewer teams. And really, the Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs depend a lot on how well the Rockets and Blazers finish the season.
Portland’s record is already inflated. They’re 21-21, but have the point differential of an 18-24 team. And they also have the hardest remaining schedule of the three.
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The Lakers’ schedule and Rockets’ schedule are about even. And get this: They play each other in L.A. on the final night of the regular season.
Before we get there, though, the Lakers need to turn their season around. And we’ve yet to see any evidence that they can.