Los Angeles Lakers May Actually Fight for a Playoff Spot This Season

LOS ANGELES — When the Los Angeles Lakers first convened for training camp in late September, center Timofey Mozgov came with a clear goal (and question) for the team.

"I think we have to go into the playoffs, or why are we playing?" asked the veteran center.

The answer to "why are we playing?" seemed obvious. After winning just 17 games last year, the Lakers' primary goal should've been developing its squad of young, promising players like Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. The team had no real shot to compete in the Western Conference. 

During its preseason forecast, ESPN.com predicted the Lakers would win just 25 games and finish dead last in the West.

Fast-forward to Wednesday night in Chicago: The Lakers, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, without their starting guard tandem of Nick Young and Russell, overcame a 14-point deficit to beat the Bulls, 96-90.

With the win, the Lakers improved to 10-10—good for ninth place in the conference through almost a quarter of the season.

"The fact that we are [at .500] speaks a lot to the effort that our guys are playing with [and] the trust they have with each other," coach Luke Walton said. "If we can keep playing hard and competing, I am confident we will get the more complicated stuff down as well and then we can make real growth happen."

Walton contends the Lakers are winning because of intensity more so than an understanding of what the coaches want on offense and defense.

"The effort and the competitiveness have been off the charts almost every night for our guys, but we need to get the execution up to par with that," Walton said.

When it comes to Los Angeles' playoff hopes, the team won't catch the elite in the West like the Golden State Warriors (16-2), San Antonio Spurs (15-4) and Los Angeles Clippers (14-5). The Houston Rockets (1...

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