First-place Lak­ers look in­ward as they pre­pare to take on Thun­der

Windsor Star - - SPORTS -

Through three games of the NBA’S restart, the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers have shown much of what makes them a ti­tle con­tender.

They have also shown how vul­ner­a­ble they can be when things are not work­ing cor­rectly.

Be­gin­ning with Wed­nes­day’s matchup against the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der, the Lak­ers have some time to look in­ward and work on be­ing the best they can be for the play­offs.

Los An­ge­les did clinch the top seed in the West­ern Con­fer­ence with Mon­day’s win over Utah. And Lak­ers star Lebron James isn’t hid­ing the fact that he’ll be keep­ing an eye on the race for eighth place, and a first-round play­off op­po­nent, in the com­ing days.

“I think it’s ab­so­lutely un­hu­man if you wasn’t re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to the seed­ings, es­pe­cially at this point of the sea­son,” James said, ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les Times. “You’re look­ing at Mem­phis and Pel­i­cans and San An­to­nio and Port­land. I’m not tak­ing out Phoenix as well. You’re just see­ing the games and see­ing what can pos­si­bly be our matchups.”

The Lak­ers are in the play­offs for the first time since 2013.

None of the Lak­ers’ five re­main­ing games are against teams they might meet in the first round.

Dur­ing their two wins in the restart, it’s been An­thony Davis, not James, who has been the cat­a­lyst to suc­cess.

Davis av­er­aged 38 points, 10 re­bounds and four as­sists in wins over the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers and Jazz. He had just 14 points, and seven shots from the field, in the loss to Toronto.

Davis said the loss Satur­day opened his eyes a bit.

“I have to play bet­ter bas­ket­ball than I did (against the Rap­tors) to help the team win,” he said. “Even though I was making the right plays, I still have to be ag­gres­sive. I didn’t like the way I per­formed and didn’t like the way we per­formed as a team.”

While the Lak­ers (51-15) might have time to catch their breath a lit­tle bit and fo­cus on what’s to come in the play­offs, Ok­la­homa City has no such lux­ury.

The Thun­der (41-25) en­ter the game sixth in the West, with Dal­las lurk­ing in strik­ing dis­tance. But the fourth seed is still within re­al­is­tic reach as well.

The Thun­der are 1-1 since the restart, with plenty of strong mo­ments in both a win over the Jazz and a loss to the Nuggets, but also some un­char­ac­ter­is­tic strug­gles.

“Like ev­ery­body else, we’re try­ing to get back to the same rhythm,” Ok­la­homa City’s Danilo Gal­li­nari said. “That’s some­thing not easy

to do right away. It’s go­ing to take some time, but I’m sure we’ll get to that point.”

Ok­la­homa City will be with­out its backup point guard, Den­nis Schroder, for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game af­ter Schroder left the team — and the NBA bub­ble — for the birth of his sec­ond child Mon­day morn­ing.

Cana­dian Shai Gil­geous-alexan­der per­formed well Mon­day, es­pe­cially late in the game — mainly when he was on the floor with Chris Paul, but Ok­la­homa City will have to con­tinue to ad­just with­out their pri­mary backup point guard.

The Thun­der are ex­pected to have Ter­rance Fer­gu­son back Wed­nes­day af­ter the for­ward sat out Mon­day with a leg con­tu­sion.

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