Lakers battling ‘killer’ plan for result of In-Season Competition


Lakers battling 'killer' plan for result of In-Season Competition

LeBron James, Lakers battling through ‘killer’ schedule in aftermath of In-Season Tournament.

The time of the season(s) is getting the best of the Los Angeles Lakers.

On the night the In-Season Tournament championship banner was unveiled, the Lakers — in losing 114-109 to the New York Knicks — were reminded of the toll their triumph in Las Vegas may have taken.

Los Angeles was uncharacteristically outscored in the paint (by 10) and was outrebounded by 11 by Tom Thibodeau’s bruising Knicks.

Darvin Ham said he noticed players lagging after misses. His squad was able to claw back from double-digit deficits in both halves but weren’t customarily sharp in crunchtime.

“I feel like our energy was up and down,” said LeBron, who didn’t play all that well yet tallied 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists to notch his 109th career triple-double.

Lakers battling 'killer' plan for result of In-Season Competition

Monday marked the Lakers’ second game at Arena since Dec. 5 (they’re 15-12 overall, 9-12 outside the IST, and 10-3 at home).

Of course, they would have enjoyed multiple nights in their own beds had they not advanced to the semifinals and spent four relatively taxing days in Las Vegas.

After their thrilling win over the Indiana Pacers in the final (which doesn’t count as one of 82), the Lakers spent a day in L.A., then jetted off for a tight road back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.

They wilted two days later, losing by 14 to a Spurs group that had lost 18 straight.

“It’s tough. For the whole month of December we’ve really been on the road,” said Anthony Davis, who had 32 points and 14 rebounds against New York.

“Hotel to hotel, you start getting delusional a bit, forgetting what room you in and things like that. But it’s the nature of the business. You gotta fight through it and find a way to get wins.”

The Lakers had won nine of 12, including the IST championship. They’re 1-3 since. The Pacers, by the way, are 1-4.

“Have you seen Indiana’s record since Vegas?” LeBron posed after Monday’s loss.

Lakers battling 'killer' plan for result of In-Season Competition

Ham firmly believes the Lakers’ run to the NBA Cup represented a net “positive” — they focused, bonded, showed big-game mettle, and achieved a goal.

Plus, it was a fun time and they won $500,000. AD rejected the idea of a championship “hangover”, noting the competitive nature of their games since. Still, the Lakers are clearly struggling to fully recover. (Vegas will do that.)

“I thought the way we played during that time was great,” said Ham. “Las Vegas wasn’t a long flight for us but … it’s gonna have an effect … There is a travel schedule”.

“Us leaving Vegas Sunday, coming back to L.A., getting ready for another long trip, taking back off Monday, getting back here. Different people within our camp having minor illnesses or whatever. The fatigue that’s already setting in at this part of the season.”

Like so many folks around the country, the Lakers have been bitten by holiday season bugs. Ham was sick and missed a rare practice on Sunday.

D’Angelo Russell was too under the weather to suit up in San Antonio. DLo and Christian Wood (non-COVID illness) were game-time calls for the Knicks bout (Russell was 3-for-10 in 28 minutes. Wood was an active DNP).

“It can be a little bit of everything,” LeBron said about the factors working against the Lakers at the moment. “Get some rest. Get healthy,”

Things won’t get any easier.

On Tuesday, they’ll fly out for three games in four nights, starting on Wednesday with a(nother) back-to-back vs. the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Oklahoma City Thunder loom on Saturday.

“Try to finish out December the right way,” LeBron said when asked how the Lakers’ have to push through this stretch. “Obviously, it’s been a killer for us, with the travel and games and things of that nature. But no rush for the weary. Gotta say mentally locked in.”

The Lakers went all-in on the In-Season Tournament. Now, they just want to put it behind them — physically and mentally. Of course, that’ll literally be impossible to do now, as the banner hangs prominently above every Lakers home game.

“It was cool to be a part of winning that,” said Austin Reaves. “But now that’s over and we got to focus on the season and hopefully raise another one up at the end of the year.”

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