Darvin Ham staying positive ahead of critical stretch for Lakers

A day before a critical matchup against a divisional opponent, Lakers players and coach Darvin Ham expressed optimism following Friday morning’s practice in El Segundo.

The Lakers (36-31) sit in ninth place in the Western Conference and host Golden State, the team right behind them, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Crypto.com Arena.

The Lakers have 15 regular-season games remaining and are 4-6 in their last 10 matchups with teams they’re chasing in the West.

“Today was a great day, the energy was high and we mixed in some things we want to try,” said Ham, whose team started the day two games behind No. 8 Dallas, 2½ behind No. 7 Phoenix and three back of No. 6 Sacramento. “This is an extremely important game and our meeting was very positive. There was a lot of dialogue. I encouraged guys to speak out. Everyone is looking in the mirror, coaches and players, to see how we can get better.”

On the injury front, Ham said it is “status quo” with the players who have been sidelined: forwards Christian Wood (knee) and Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and guard Gabe Vincent (knee). Forward Cam Reddish, who has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury, practiced Friday but is not likely to play Saturday.

Golden State (34-31) is is clinging to the last spot for the play-in tournament. Superstar guard Stephen Curry, who averages 26.9 points, has missed the last three games because of an ankle injury and forward Draymond Green sat out Wednesday’s loss at Dallas because of back soreness.

“We’re preparing like those two are going to play,” Ham said. “This game is extremely important. Golden State is in rhythm, they’ve had their share of injuries, but they play hard for each other and Steve [Kerr, coach] has made the right adjustments. They’ve got the right mix of young talent and veteran leadership. That’s a championship organization and we’re going to have our hands full.”

Both teams will try to rebound from road losses. Sacramento completed a season sweep of the Lakers with a 120-107 win Wednesday while the Warriors fell 109-99 at Dallas.

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura scored 20 points in 36 minutes against Sacramento but was silent over the last two quarters.

“This is a big game … almost a playoff game,” an upbeat Hachimura told reporters after practice. “We had a great team meeting today, we went over plays. They’ve been preparing for us. We have to defend them well, box out on Draymond and help AD [Anthony Davis] as much as we can. They like to shoot threes but they’re a good transition team too and they have a lot of off-ball movement, so we have to talk and help each other.”

Hachimura expressed a sense of urgency and, after attempting only one shot in the second half at Sacramento, said he needs to be more aggressive.

“It’s a team sport but watching film I see areas where I can be better,” he added. “Every game is important here on out. We’ve been doing a good job of communicating and we need to continue that. We know them well and they know us well.”

Saturday marks the third of four meetings. The Lakers won 145-144 in double overtime Jan. 27 and the Warriors won 128-110 on Feb. 22, both in the Bay Area. The teams’ last meeting is April 9 in Los Angeles.

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