Ric Bucher: This year’s Lakers have same ‘mojo’ that they had in 2020 bubble

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports analyst Ric Bucher believes that the Los Angeles Lakers have a similar “mojo” this season to the last two times they made deep playoff runs.

Bucher compared how the team closed out the 2023-24 regular season to when it made the Western Conference Finals in the 2022-23 season and won the NBA title in the 2019-20 season in the NBA’s Orlando, Fla. bubble.

“I could pick apart what the Lakers are and what they’ve done,” Bucher said when asked which Western Conference play-in team he trusts the most. “They got this little mojo here at the end of the season that reminds me of the mojo that they had in the bubble and then they had when they made their run last year. It feels familiar.”

The Lakers are in a familiar spot, as they’ve been in the play-in tournament in two previous seasons, winning and earning the No. 7 seed in both the 2020-21 campaign and the 2022-23 season.

After beating the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon, the Lakers retained the No. 8 seed in the West, which means they’ll have two chances to win one play-in tournament game to make the final playoff field in the conference.

This season, Los Angeles is 3-1 against the Pelicans (all the wins by double digits), and it has gone 1-1 against the Pels on the road.

Lakers fans are certainly hoping that Bucher’s instinct about this team is right, as they’d love to see the Lakers make a run for an NBA title.

In the 2019-20 season, the Lakers stormed through the playoffs in the bubble, winning each series leading up to the NBA Finals in five games. Los Angeles then finished off the Miami Heat in six games to win its first title with LeBron James on the roster.

Last season, Los Angeles earned the No. 7 seed in the West after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament, and it upset the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors (both higher seeds) to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

While the team came up short against the Denver Nuggets, it did show it was capable of a lengthy playoff run.

To close out the 2023-24 regular season, the Lakers won 16 of their last 23 games. After falling to 31-28 on Feb. 25 in a loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers flipped a switch to finish the season with a 47-35 record.

Los Angeles is looking to show that the late-season run wasn’t a fluke when it takes on New Orleans on Tuesday night. That game is scheduled to tip off at 4:30 p.m. PST.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.