Lakers not exactly rolling along as playoffs approach

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LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – This is the land of in-between for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Games right now matter, in the sense that only three contests are left to build momentum for the postseason. And games right now don’t matter, in the sense that the Lakers basically knew five months ago that they would be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

They lost again Thursday night, with LeBron James getting the night off in a defeat to the Houston Rockets. The Lakers are 2-3 so far in the bubble, and their offensive numbers are brutal.

There are 22 teams here at the NBA restart at Walt Disney World. Of those 22, the Lakers — the team with the second-best record in the NBA — rank last in field goal percentage (.408), last in 3-point percentage (.234), last in points per game (98.8) and next-to-last in free throw percentage (.729).

“This is a totally different season, a totally different drastic situation for all of us, including myself,” James said this week.

If they win Game 1 of the playoffs in about a week and a half, none of this will matter. If they win the NBA title in a couple months, this will be long forgotten. But right now, the Lakers sure don’t seem like a team that’s going to be rolling into the postseason.

“I do believe in percentages,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I do believe in guys trusting the work that they put in. And there’s always a reversion to the mean. The law of averages plays out and I’m OK with getting all these misses out of the way right now.”

James didn’t play against Houston because of what the Lakers described as a sore groin muscle. There have been plenty of instances over the years where James has taken games off toward the end of the regular season once his team’s playoff seed was certain.