Led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 21-point performance and Julius Randle’s double-double, the Los Angeles Lakers completed a dramatic, comeback victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Lakers improved to 8-10 and found themselves in a three-way tie with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder for the eight seed in the Western Conference. Los Angeles held the advantage, however, as the Grizzlies and Thunder trailed the Lakers in winning percentage.
But that changed when the Lakers faced the Sacramento Kings on the second night of a back-to-back. They failed to complete another come-from-behind victory, and begin Friday one game back of the Thunder for the No. 8 seed.
In a recent interview with Mason and Ireland of ESPN LA Radio, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka discussed the importance and influence of remaining part of the playoff picture will have for the players:
“I was looking at the team that’s in the eighth spot in the West, I think for all of us, if we can stay within a stone’s throw or striking distance from being in that conversation, that’s big for us.
“It gives us a purpose to compete for that spot. I think this young team would love to hover in that area and get a chance to play when it really matters — when the playoffs kick in.”
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Lakers have already picked up impressive wins against a quartet of playoff-hopeful teams in the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Grizzlies.
Aiding Los Angeles in the early going is their vast improvement on the defensive side. The Lakers own the fourth-best defensive rating (101) to this point and trail only the Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers and Thunder in that category.
The Lakers’ mettle and staying power will be tested in December, when eight of their 14 games are on the road. Included in that are contests against the likes of the resurgent Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
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