Although LeBron James and Rajon Rondo made their respective returns from lengthy absences due to injury, it was not enough for the Los Angeles Lakers to right the ship for an expected playoff push.
The team lost seven of 10 games heading into the All-Star break, then dropped seven of their next nine heading into Tuesday’s matchup with the lowly Chicago Bulls. The Lakers played the past two games without Kyle Kuzma, who returned for the start of the five-game road trip.
It began like several of the Lakers’ other recent contests, as they trailed by 18 points by the end of the first quarter. They fell behind as many as 20 points before mounting a comeback, with James leading the charge and Kuzma chipping in during a big third quarter.
Following the 123-107 win, Kuzma explained what he believed led to the Lakers turning the game around, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Any time you can get a win, especially in this league, it’s hard to come by. Especially with the drought we were in — losing five straight. It’s never easy to try to get wins, but tonight was good. … We started having fun. You see Rondo just started throwing random lob passes and whatnot. Everybody just had a joy for the game, happy for each other, everybody was moving the ball, passing it. It felt like everybody had shots tonight. … When you’re losing it’s always hard to try to have fun and embrace just playing the game. We get caught so many times as professionals in this day and age of social media and everybody is so tight and tense when playing basketball. Just in general, as basketball players we just need to try to have fun and play the game like we did when we were kids in high school or college. I think if we can do that the next 15 games, lay it all out there, it’s all we can really ask at this point.”
As the team was skidding into the All-Star break, Kuzma stressed a need for the Lakers to revert back to their free-playing and joyous ways.
Although the team is not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, odds are certainly against the Lakers with just 15 games remaining. However, if Kuzma and James can lead them in a remarkable turnaround, it would begin to place pressure on the teams ahead in the Western Conference standings.