Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham says the team's goal is to reach the playoffs rather than falling into a play-in situation as they look to revive their season after the All-Star break.
The Lakers are currently 13th in the Western Conference with a 27-32 record ahead of their resumption against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
Despite the Lakers' lowly rank in the west, they are only 2.0 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 10th seed, which earns a play-in berth.
But LA are also only 3.5 games behind the sixth-placed Dallas Mavericks, for the final of the guaranteed playoffs spots, offering hope for a side which drastically changed its roster prior to the break.
Russell Westbrook has departed, while they acquired D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to bolster their squad.
The Lakers also have LeBron James and Anthony Davis fit again and ready to team up as they look for a charge, with the four-time NBA MVP earlier this week labelling their final 23 regular-season games as "the most important" games of his career.
"The goal is for us to come out and try to be the best version of ourselves each game, but definitely, if we can go and secure a spot, that is our goal right there," Ham told reporters.
"If we fall into a play-in situation, so be it. But our number one goal is to go secure a spot, not just throw games off here or there and just wish for a play-in. We want to go secure a spot."
Back at it. pic.twitter.com/TTkjdxvKLD— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 22, 2023
The Lakers face two of their main rivals for those final Western Conference playoffs spots in their next two games, with the Warriors sitting ninth with a 29-29 record but they will be without star Stephen Curry to injury.
The Mavericks, who acquired Kyrie Irving prior to the Trade Deadline, are next on Sunday after Golden State.
"I mean we have to help ourselves first and foremost, and we only do that by winning games," Ham said.
"We've already put ourselves behind the eight ball enough, we don't want to get into a further situation where we're depending on teams in front of us to lose games and all the while we're dropping games.
"Winning is the focus. It's the only way we can help ourselves and take care of what we can control."
All-Star Davis said the Lakers needed to treat every remaining game as a "must-win" and play them like Game 7 of a series.