4 things the Lakers need to sort out to make a playoff run
With a 113-117 loss to the tanking Hawks at the Philips Center, the Lakers have now fallen 3 games behind the Kings in search of the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race. With only about 25 games remaining in the season, Lakers nation has its back to the wall, and one can only dream of the final stretch in the 2012-13 season when 34-year-old Kobe Bryant single-handedly willed the Purple and Gold brigade to the playoffs after possessing the exact same record as they do this season.
Can 34-year-old LeBron, fresh off the longest injury absence of his career, do enough to will the Lakers into a first-round beatdown at the hands of the Warriors? Will they get lucky and draw the 7th seed and the Nuggets or the Thunder instead?
To answer this question, we need to explore what the Lakers have done wrong so far, and how they can right those wrongs:
#1 Lineup struggles
While the Lakers have probably been the worst injury-hit team in the Pacific division, Luke Walton's lineup schemes haven't exactly inspired confidence among the Purple and Gold brigade. A cursory look at their 5-man lineup data, for now, has some fairly obvious results.
Walton's most trusted five-man unit of McGee, James, Ingram, Kuzma and Lonzo is barely breaking even, posting an average offense and an average defense. Given the torrid shooting this lineup boasts (Bron is easily the best shooter of these 5), Walton will probably have to replace one of Ingram or Lonzo with recent acquisition Reggie Bullock before long.
Mike Muscala is another shooter who needs to be integrated into the Lakers setup quickly. The Lakers usually finish games out with Tyson Chandler on the floor in McGee's place for his rim protection, but to add true shooting to their lineup, they might consider going small to close games out with Muscala in.