Lakers, Kings and Spurs lose in Western playoff race



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With about 22 games up to the playoffs, the race for one of the last posts in the playoffs in the West seems to be taking place in a pressure cooker increasingly crowded every day and getting hotter with every defeat suffered by each of the teams in the running. After his Lakers defeated the Rockets home last Thursday, Luke Walton rhetorically asked: "If we go for this road trip and are throwing two games in a row, then what does this game really mean? ? "

L.A. hit the road and did exactly what Walton had described. They lost to Anthony Pelicans – less less, and LeBron James responded by questioning the team's commitment to basketball. On Monday night, they lost again, this time to 110-105 against the Grizzlies. It was LeBron who left a shooter wide open, it was he who kicked the ball at the last chance 3 and he who committed a charge in record time that sealed the defeat of the Lakers against the second worst team from West.

The pressure, in the case of the Lakers, only pointed out their flaws and inconsistencies. Even if LeBron's lowlights are the ones that will be played in a loop until the next Lakers game, a glance at the score of the box will show a problem that goes further – until the free return last summer. Against Memphis, the Lakers' bench combined for a total of seven points; Four of the six bench players who saw the field had negative double – digit scores, which gave the impression that the match sheet looked like one of my high school algebra tests. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – the players the Lakers signed with LeBron – allied to shoot 5 out of 16 of the field. The Lakers were joined by 11, had 17 turnovers, gave Mike Conley Jr. 30 points and boosted Joakim Noah's career to 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 dunks.

Ironically, this tumultuous set of games brought out the best of Brandon Ingram. The third-year professional had one of the best games of his career on Monday (32 points out of 12 shots on 18, including three 3), but he was lost in this defeat. The number of Ingrams in the Lakers' second-best player finally seems to have started – he arrived Monday with an average of 21.3 points on a 55% shot last month – while everything else seems to be slowly falling apart . Even the silver liners have their shadow.

In the race to the West for the 7 and 8 seeds, the Lakers have long felt like a guarantee because they use LeBron well. Last week began to show cracks in this base usually foolproof. And yet, even after losing to the Grizzlies and Pelicans, they are still only two games in the losses column because the teams they pursue (other than the Clippers) did not win. Nobody seems to want these places in the playoffs, and after Monday, the already complicated race has added another team to his mix.

In Brooklyn, the Spurs were bulldozed by the adorable squad of young players making up this year's Nets. In three quarters, San Antonio scored only 59 points. It was a drought that marked the emblem of their recent struggles. They have lost seven of their last eight games and have had the worst defense in the league and one of the top 10 in this stretch. For most of the season, the Spurs have taken advantage of their system and the reliability of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, but they run the risk of running out of fuel and reaching their peak at the worst possible time. With the loss, they fell to eighth place in the West; in early February, they were the fifth seed.

In Minnesota, the Kings were lucky to be tied with the Spurs for last place. They won up to 13 points in the first quarter, then lost a lead that they would never recover. Karl-Anthony Towns unleashed one of his best games of the season (34 points, 21 rebounds, five assists, two blocks), and still, the Kings still had a chance to win him late because of the impossibility to close. But for some reason, it was Corey Brewer who was heading to the hoop as a crucial option. [Insert thinking-face emoji here.] Sacramento, of course, is trying to return to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The Wolves, who managed to return last year for the first time in 14 seasons, know this sentiment and beating the Kings on Monday, Minnesota is back in the playoffs. They are tied with the Lakers, just three games away from this elusive 8 seeds.

Above all are the Clippers, who have not left. Instead, they moved to seventh place with a full lead over the Spurs after beating the Mavericks 121-112 on Monday. The juxtaposition between them and the Lakers is revealing. The Clippers traded Tobias Harris, their best player, on the deadline and did not suffer too much. The irrevocable proof that their system, not their talent, kept them in the game. They play with the house money and have no pressure, but continue to prosper. The Lakers, however, must rely almost entirely on their best player to save them. They do not only deal with the pressure, but also the biggest projector in the league.

"There is definitely additional pressure for the group," Walton said. m said after the defeat of the Lakers against Memphis on Monday, citing a lack of cohesion due to injuries and "court talks".

In Lakerland, the season seemed to last several centuries – from the honeymoon phase to LeBron's injury to the Anthony Davis saga. The outside pressure did not help, but if things are not designed to win indoors – and for the Lakers, it does not feel like they're doing it – does it really matter? This is the period of survival now.

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