With the 2021-2022 NBA season having reached the halfway point, teams are quickly running out of time to turn things around. Several teams that started the year with high expectations, including the Los Angeles Lakers (21-21) and New York Knicks (21-21), are out of the latest playoff picture.

The Los Angeles Clippers (21-21) and Lakers are the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds, respectively, meaning they would face off in the play-in tournament if the regular season was over. The L.A. teams trail the No. 6 seed Denver Nuggets (20-19) by a half-game and the No. 5 seed Dallas Mavericks by 1.5 games in the standings.

With the No. 4 seed Utah Jazz (28-14) sitting seven games in front of both the Clippers and Lakers, it’s unlikely that either Los Angeles team will have a home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series.

The Clippers were expected to struggle because Kawhi Leonard could miss the entire season with a torn ACL. The Lakers have dealt with key injuries of their own, and Anthony Davis has missed the last four weeks. Still, the Lakers’ .500 record indicates that they might not have what it takes to compete for a championship, even when completely healthy.

LeBron James is second in the NBA with 29.1 points per game in addition to his 7.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists per contest. James’ MVP-caliber play hasn’t been enough to lift the Lakers in the standings. Russell Westbrook’s inefficiency continues to be an issue. The point guard missed 12 of his 14 shot attempts in Wednesday’s 125-116 loss to the Sacramento Kings (17-27).

The No. 11 seed Kings are five games behind the Lakers, making it highly unlikely that Los Angeles will miss the play-in tournament.

The Knicks and Atlanta Hawks (17-23) are the first teams outside of the play-in tournament with half of the regular season gone. It’s a surprising development for last year’s No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the Eastern Conference who met in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks made it all the way to Game 6 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.

New York has shown signs of life, winning four of the last five games and getting back to .500 for the first time since Dec. 7. RJ Barrett scored 32 points in Wednesday’s 108-85 win over Dallas. Barrett is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 50% from 3-point range in six January games.

The Knicks have the same record as the No. 10 seed Boston Celtics (21-21). In a tight East playoff race, New York trails the No. 6 seed Cleveland Cavaliers (24-18) by three games.

Atlanta’s slow start has ignited speculation that the team might look to make a significant trade before the Feb. 10 deadline. Trae Young is fourth in the NBA with 27.7 points per game and third with 9.4 assists per game. The Hawks have one of the league’s worst defenses.

The Hawks are 3-8 in their last 11 games.

LeBron James
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Crypto.com Arena on January 09, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images