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It’s time to panic about the Lakers

Could LeBron James really miss the playoffs? It doesn’t look good.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers got smoked on Saturday night by a New Orleans Pelicans unit without Anthony Davis, who sat the latter half of his team’s back-to-back. L.A. fell, 128-115, in a game that wasn’t close for most of the second half, despite playing every key player except an injured Lonzo Ball.

It’s time to worry about LeBron James and the Lakers.

Doubting James is foolish given the way he’s always turned it on when it mattered but, but L.A. is now 29-30 and 3.5 games back in from the No. 8 seed in the West with just 23 games left. The Los Angeles Clippers hold the No. 8 seed by 1.5 games over the surging Sacramento Kings, who are two games ahead of L.A.

This is uncharted territory for The King.

Losing to a short-handed Pels team is tyical for this L.A. season

Winning big games and then immediately crashing and burning against inferior teams has plagued the Lakers all season long. This loss to New Orleans came two days after L.A. rallied from 19 points down to beat a full-strength Rockets team. Before the break, L.A. lost by 42 points to the Pacers, then beat the Celtics 48 hours later, only to get blown out by 23 points to the Sixers and then lose to the Hawks in the next two games.

There’s been no consistency for L.A. since James returned from a month-long groin injury. Once upon a time, the Lakers were 20-14. Now, after LeBron’s groin strain and a two-week rumored Anthony Davis trade, the team is below .500.

What now for L.A.?

Something has to change for the Lakers to solidify a playoff spot. Just as what many suspected before the season started, it may start with the inexperienced personnel.

“How many know what’s at stake if you’ve never been there?” James asked the media after the loss, according to ESPN.

“I’m playing devil’s advocate, you know? It’s kind of a fine line when you talk about that, because when you’ve never been there or know what it takes to actually shoot for something like that, sometimes you’re afraid to get uncomfortable.”

James has played more postseason games than the rest of his team combined, and a handful of guys playing meaningful minutes, including Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma, have never been there.

A temporary fix may come on the buyout market, which unofficially closes on March 1 because that’s the last date a newcomer can be playoff-eligible. Maybe former Clippers center Marcin Gortat or former Kings shooter Ben McLemore can complement James’ surrounding help like nobody else has. There’s also been the whispers of Carmelo Anthony all season long.

There must be some roster movement though, for any conceivable run to be made. Aside from an under-the-radar move to acquire Pistons wing shooter Reggie Bullock, the trade deadline was utterly disappointing.

Now the whole Lakers season is in danger of feeling that way, too.