The Los Angeles Lakers' season is spiraling out of control, as they have lost six-straight games after getting blown out 116-101 by the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Staples Center on Friday night. The Lakers now sit at 15-21 on the year, five games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the loaded Western Conference.
But as bad as it looks right now in Lakerland, there's time to turn things around. There's still plenty of talent on the roster, and if the team can gel once Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol return from injury, who knows what can happen. The loss of reserve forward Jordan Hill for the season certainly hurts, but ultimately, it's the stars on the team that have to step up and make this thing happen.
A reasonable goal for the Lakers would be to get back to .500 by All-Star Weekend. That means going 12-6 over the next 18 games, and if Los Angeles could pull that off, they should be in pretty decent shape to make a late season charge into the postseason.
But how feasible is a 12-6 record?
Looking at the schedule, it could be pretty tough to get back to .500 unless there's a drastic improvement in play. The next two games are very winnable, as the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers and inconsistent Milwaukee Bucks visit the Staples Center. Kyrie Irving and the Bucks' guards could cause problems for the defensively-challenged Lakers, but those are still games Los Angeles should be able to win
Grabbing those two wins is almost imperative, because three of the next four games are against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies, with the games against the Bulls and Grizzlies coming on the road. That game against the Bulls will also be the second of a back-to-back, as the Lakers will be in Toronto the night before.
Following the trip to Memphis, Los Angeles has three home games against the Thunder, Utah Jazz and New Orleans Hornets. Winning two out of three in that stretch is almost a necessity, because the Lakers then go on a seven-game road trip, starting on Jan. 30 against the Phoenix Suns. Los Angeles does catch a break in that only three of those seven games are against teams currently over .500, but long road trips are tough nonetheless.
The Lakers return home from their trip to face the Suns again before heading into the break with a contest against the crosstown rival Clippers. That game against the Clippers is sure to have a lot of juice, and a big victory there could springboard the Lakers into a strong second half of the season.
Here's a guess at how these next 18 games could play out:
1/13 vs. Cavaliers: W
1/15 vs. Bucks: W
1/17 vs. Heat: L
1/20 at Raptors: W
1/21 at Bulls: L
1/23 at Grizzlies: L
1/25 vs. Jazz: W
1/27 vs. Thunder: L
1/29 vs. Hornets: W
1/30 at Suns: W
2/1 at Timberwolves: W
2/3 at Pistons: W
2/5 at Nets: L
2/7 at Celtics: L
2/8 at Bobcats: W
2/10 at Heat: L
2/12 vs. Suns: W
2/14 vs. Clippers: L
These outcomes would put the Lakers at 10-8 over this stretch and 25-29 heading into All-Star Weekend. That record could be better if Los Angeles is able to grab a couple of the tougher games on the slate, but they also could not afford to lose any of the games they supposedly should win. The Lakers have lost some really bad games this year, so there are no guarantees whatsoever.