Since Kobe Bryant returned, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost three games in a row. Bryant has been clear that his leg and ankle cannot attack and explode to the necessary level as yet. As such, Bryant has become a distributor as he works himself back into shape.
Coming into Friday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers knew they were out-gunned and out-matched. LA had no healthy point guards, and becoming the first team to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder at home was not likely.
On Saturday, however, the Lakers need to get a win. The Charlotte Bobcats have a losing record at home and have lost four of their last six games overall. The Lakers need this one in a bad way.
For LA, a loss on Saturday would be entirely unacceptable. If that happened, the Lakers would be on a four-game losing streak with another back-to-back in Atlanta and Memphis coming up. The Lakers could conceivably return home on a six-game losing streak, and Bryant would still be searching for his first win of the season.
At that point, the Lakers would be five games below .500 and making the playoffs would become an improbability. Heck, a trade and tanking may even become acceptable at that point. Currently, the Dallas Mavericks hold the final playoff spot and are three games above .500. If the Lakers return winless from this road trip, they would need to pull off an eight-game winning streak to level for the eighth spot. With this current team playing without a point guard and out of sync, one would find it hard to see that happening.
True, a mid-December game against the Bobcats should not mean much in an 82-game season, but to this Lakers team at this crucial point in their season, a loss would be devastating.
Saturday night in Charlotte may not top the NBA schedule as must-see television, but for the Lakers, this game may be the defining moment of the season.
The Lakers need a win. Tip-off is 4 pm PST.