With LeBron James and Anthony Davis sidelined due to injuries, the Lakers came up short (122-109) and lost their third straight game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
Led by Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, and Malik Monk, who combined for 59 points, the Lakers couldn't get shots to fall in what was a competitive contest for three quarters.
According to Frank Vogel, the team plans to forget about this game and move on to tomorrow's crucial match versus the New Orleans Pelicans, where the Lakers will reportedly likely have James and Davis back on the lineup.
"We know if we get into the play-in game at full strength, we have a shot," Vogel said. "If there's any chance those guys can be out there they will be. They want to be back as quick as they can, but those are medical decisions," the head coach added.
Can James and Davis save this team?
Davis' 17 missed games have significantly affected the Lakers. Los Angeles lost 14 games in his absence despite LeBron James averaging the most points per game of his career (34.3) in March. Whether or not Davis comes back in top form is still up in the air, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday that AD would likely not be 100% when he gets back.
Moreover, James will test out his ankle on Friday before deciding on whether he will play or not. The King needs to suit up in three more games if he wants to win the scoring title.
Currently, James is tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.1), who both lead Joel Embiid (30.0) by the smallest of margins in what seems to be a competitive race. The Lakers badly miss James' scoring in the past two games.
"For me, it's a big adjustment not knowing who's in and who's out. It's not something I'm accustomed to," Westbrook said. He added that Friday's game is a must-win for the Purple and Gold. "It's pretty self-explanatory, big game for us. We know that, and they know that."
Oddsmakers don't believe in the Lakers.
With seven games left, the Lakers are still competing with the Pelicans and Spurs for a spot in the play-in tournament. According to FiveThirtyEight's playoff odds machine, Los Angeles has the lowest chance (3%) to make the playoffs compared to New Orleans (29%) and San Antonio (6%). It also doesn't help that the Lakers don't have the tie-breaker advantage against these two teams and also have the toughest schedule remaining among the three.
Despite a tough road ahead, both Howard and Westbrook backed up Vogel's statements and said that the Lakers still believe they have enough talent to overcome their obstacles.
"It's all about who's getting hot at the right time, especially going into the playoffs. Anything is possible when you have some great talent like we have on our team," Howard said.
"There's a lot of ifs and maybes and what ifs. I'm a big believer in playing the cards you're dealt," Westbrook added.
The Lakers' playoff chances rely heavily on the outcome of Friday's game against the Pelicans. With Davis set to suit up and James being a game-time decision, the team is hopeful they can make one last final push.
Because just like what Trevor Ariza said postgame, once they get to the playoffs, there's hope knowing that every single team's record is back to 0-0.