Playoffs might be a long shot for the Lakers

January, 12, 2013
1/12/13
2:21
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive
Noah Graham/Getty ImagesThe Lakers have lost a season-high six straight games.
It might be time to panic in Los Angeles -– well, at least for Lakers fans.

The Lakers now have lost six straight games, their longest losing streak since March 2007. They’re within striking distance of their franchise-record 10-game losing streak in April 1994.

It’s now very realistic that the Lakers might not make the playoffs.

This is the 10th time in franchise history the Lakers have started 15-21 or worse through 36 games. Of the previous nine times, they never finished .500 or better. The last time they started 15-21 or worse and made the playoffs was 1966-67.

In the past five seasons, the worst win percentage for a Western Conference playoff team was .545 last season by the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz. In an 82-game season, that would be 45 wins.

In order for the Lakers to reach 45 wins, they would need to finish with a 30-16 record.

How realistic is that? Only two teams have ever finished a season with at least 45 wins after starting 15-21 or worse, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- the 2004-05 Denver Nuggets and 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks.

What’s wrong with the Lakers?

Since Mike D’Antoni took over on Nov. 20, the Lakers have been the sixth-worst team in terms of defensive efficiency.

This has much to do with playing at the second-highest pace under D’Antoni.

They were the eighth-best defensive team in their first 10 games of the season while playing at the ninth-highest pace.

The Lakers have had trouble defending opposing teams' best players. During their six-game losing streak, the Lakers have allowed star players to score well above their season scoring averages:

• 76ers: Jrue Holiday scored 26 (averages 18.3 points per game)
• Clippers: Chris Paul scored 30 (averages 17.0 ppg)
• Nuggets: Ty Lawson scored 21 (averages 14.1 ppg)
• Rockets: James Harden scored 31 (averages 26.5 ppg)
• Spurs: Tony Parker scored 24 (averages 19.2 ppg)
• Thunder: Kevin Durant scored 42 (averages 28.1 ppg)

Injuries don’t help the situation. But turning the Lakers' season around likely will have to start with much-improved defense.

Improving on the defensive end and winning more games could be much easier if the Lakers can slow down their pace.

The Lakers have had a pace of 100 or more possessions in each of their past four games -– all losses, of course. The Lakers now have a 7-16 record this season in games with a pace of at least 96 possessions, but they’re 8-5 when the pace is 95 or slower.

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