Lakers Back In Playoff Bracket, Celtics, Mavericks Fall Into Play-In Field

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-12) are back in the latest NBA playoff bracket, and they hope to stay there with the roster finally getting healthy. Los Angeles moved up the Western Conference standings into the No. 6 seed with an impressive 117-102 win over the Boston Celtics (13-12) Tuesday night.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 30 points on 13-19 shooting. It was just James’ 13th game of the 2021-2022 season. The four-time NBA MVP has missed 12 contests for various reasons and still hasn’t played more than three games in a row.

Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have filled up the stat sheet, but the two superstars were not able to carry the Lakers to a winning record without the team’s best player. Westbrook has played better of late, averaging 23.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 8.9 assists while shooting 50% from the field over the last eight games. It remains to be seen if Los Angeles’ Big 3 can fit together and meet preseason expectations as the heavy West favorites.

It was only 14 months ago that James and Davis led the Lakers to a championship. James is averaging 31 points on 49.1% shooting over the last five games.

L.A. is 7.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors (20-4) and Phoenix Suns (20-4) for the West’s best record. The Lakers are ahead of the Dallas Mavericks (11-12) and Denver Nuggets (11-12), who are tied for the first two spots in the play-in tournament.

Dallas fell below .500 and out of the early playoff picture Tuesday with a 102-99 loss at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets (17-7). The Mavericks blew a 17-point deficit, continuing to be among the league’s biggest disappointments. 

Luka Doncic was the preseason MVP favorite for a second straight year. Doncic has yet to take that next step and join the league’s top-tier superstars. The fourth-year player is averaging his fewest points, rebounds, and assists since his rookie season. 

Doncic admitted that his conditioning could be contributing to his slower-than-expected start. 

“I had a long summer,” Doncic said, via ESPN, leading the program to a fourth-place finish in its first Olympics. “I had the Olympics, took three weeks off, and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I’ve just got to get back on track.”

The Mavericks rank 21st in offensive rating and 20th in defensive rating. Two seasons ago, Dallas set a then-record for points per possession.

Like Dallas, Boston is failing to meet expectations with an early spot in the play-in tournament. The Celtics are the No. 10 seed in a crowded Eastern Conference. Boston is a half-game ahead of the No. 11 seed New York Knicks (12-12) and only a half-game behind the No. 6 seed Philadelphia 76ers (13-11).

The Celtics rank 17th in offensive rating. Jayson Tatum leads the team with 25.5 points per game, while second-leading scorer Jaylen Brown has missed 12 games with injuries.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers congratulates LeBron James #6 after scoring he scored a basket and was fouled against the Detroit Pistons Photo: Getty Images | Kevork Djansezian

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