NBA

LeBron hails Lakers turnaround – 'The analytics said we had 0.3 chance'

By Sports Desk April 12, 2023

LeBron James was quick to point out how the Los Angeles Lakers were written off earlier in the season after clinching their playoff spot with Tuesday's 108-102 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

James scored 30 points with 10 rebounds and six assists as the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat the short-handed Timberwolves in the NBA play-in tournament to secure a first-round series with the second seed Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers have endured a tumultuous campaign, having started slowly, but rallied to become the first team in nearly two decades to start 2-10 and finish with a winning record (43-39), before now clinching their playoff spot.

They revived their season with a series of trade deadlines moves, including flipping Russell Westbrook out and bringing in Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and D'Angelo Russell. Since Westbrook exited, the Lakers have gone 19-9.

"When we were 2-10, the analytics said we had a 0.3 chance of making the postseason," four-time NBA champion James told reporters after Tuesday's win. "All you ask for is a chance.

"For us to turn around our season and give ourselves an opportunity to compete for the Larry O'Brien Trophy is all you can ask for.

"Even through ups and downs we've been very resilient. We've been able to stick with the game and find the way to gut out a win, even with slow starts or not finishing the game how we'd like to... Tonight was another instance of that versus a very, very good team."

No team has progressed past the playoffs first round after qualifying from the play-in tournament since it was introduced in 2021, but James remained hopeful of a Lakers' run.

"That's the only reason I play still, to try and put myself in a position to make championship runs," he said. "And give team-mates that have never been on a championship run something they haven’t experienced before.

"It hasn’t changed for me since about 2006 or 2007. That's been my mindset every year, how can I make a championship run? I've been successful in four of those. I've been on a lot and I want to continue those."

The Lakers should have clinched victory in regulation time after James drove to the bucket, drawing defenders before kicking out an assist to Denis Schroder for a go-ahead three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left.

But Anthony Davis gifted the Wolves three free-throws after a foul on Mike Conley, before the Lakers triumphed in OT.

"It's unfortunate that AD had a brain fart and messed his game-winner up," James told NBA on TNT with a laugh alongside Schroder.

"This is what our sport is all about, getting to April and having an opportunity to play in the postseason. We've been battle-tested all year, especially since the break, we've played some really good basketball."

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