Let’s be honest. All of us Lakers fans have given up on this team’s chances this season. And honestly, we all probably did so at least a month ago if not a couple of months ago. Anthony Davis’ injury didn’t help, but even if Davis were healthy over the last month the rest of the Lakers haven’t really played in a way that would give fans confidence in the team winning two play-in games with a follow-up of four wins against the number one seeded Phoenix Suns in a playoff series.
However, the Lakers gave us a smidge of hope on Monday night, as they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 131-120. And it hasn’t been just that one game that has slowly changed fans’ expectations, as the team also gave pretty good efforts in their previous games against the Wizards and Raptors. They beat the Raptors behind Russell Westbrook’s improbable game-tying, buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and would have beaten the Wizards if they didn’t let go of the rope in the fourth quarter after playing so well in the preceding three quarters.
So where are the Lakers’ heads at right now in terms of confidence? Well, they seem to indicate that confidence never wavered. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t really matter at this point… as they may be feeling themselves at just the right time with only 10 more regular-season games to go. In fact, they sound ready to prove us doubters wrong.
Russ says he knows outside people are doubting him and the Lakers: "Nothing better than shutting people up."
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) March 22, 2022
"Internally we feel like we're a great team and we can do something special…As long as we believe in each other it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks."
DJ Augustin on the energy inside the locker room
— Cooper Halpern (@CooperHalpern) March 22, 2022
And sure. Some of you reading this are probably thinking, “These are really convenient things to say after you guys had one of your best games in the year with D.J. Augustin making six of six 3-point attempts.” And… it’s probably fair of you to be thinking something like that. Hell, we’re not too far removed from LeBron James saying the Lakers were not on the Milwaukee Bucks’ level, with that sentiment not being the only case of the Lakers seeming down-and-out mentally.
Doubt that as much as you may. All that matters is that the Lakers seemingly believe in themselves right now.
However, there’s been one person that has not wavered with his confidence in this group in his media availabilities. That person is head coach Frank Vogel, who Augustin credited for consistently keeping the team together through this past stretch.
Asked Vogel if he had any more LeBron superlatives as he continues to put forth performance after performance: “I’m all out.”
He went to point out many of the things LeBron is doing, and then allowed: “This team has not let go of the rope, and the biggest reason is (LeBron).”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 22, 2022
Now, confidence can only take you so far. You still have to have the talent and the non-stop focus to win four playoff series and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy (also add in two play-in games for the team in this case). Have the Lakers shown enough with this roster to make us really think they have enough of that to do so? Of course not. But at least they’re not going to go down without a fight. And who knows. The Lakers did trade for a certain guy this past offseason that has literally branded the phrase, “Why not?”
It’d be a shame if the team didn’t exhibit that type of attitude moving forward towards the postseason, even with everything that’s gone on this year.