IT: Surging Lakers have embraced his ‘win-now’ mantra

Isaiah Thomas of the Lakers says "I'm not no sixth man."

The Los Angeles Lakers began Sunday 6.5 games out of eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling good about themselves.

After rallying from a 17-point deficit and recording a 116-112 win at San Antonio on Saturday night, the Lakers have now won a season-best five games in a row.

Isaiah Thomas, acquired along with Channing Frye and a protected 2018 first-round draft choice from Cleveland for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., had 21 points and seven assists in 29 minutes off the bench in the victory.

The former Boston Celtics star point guard believes the message he’s been preaching since his arrival in LA is being heard.

“We believe. When I got here I said, ‘Why not win now?’” he told reporters after knocking off San Antonio. “Not saying it’s all on me or we’re winning just because of me, but I think I put that in these guys’ minds. Like, we can win every game we play in. Why can’t we? We’re just as good as everybody else.”

In eight games as a Laker, Thomas has averaged 16.1 points and 4.9 assists in 24.3 minutes per game, all off the bench. He is shooting 42.3 percent from the field in LA, including 35.4 percent from the 3-point line.

Though the odds are long against Los Angeles reaching the postseason (a nine-game skid in late January and early December dashed any realistic hopes), the Lakers have now produced three winning streaks of at least four games, all since Dec. 7.

“Let’s think, ‘win now,’ and let’s try to make a run for the playoffs,” Thomas said “Like I said, I’ve been in this situation before, when I got traded to Boston. It was a young team thinking rebuild and play the young guys and things like that.

“But we came together like, ‘Shoot, if we play hard and leave it all out there on the floor, anything can happen.’ I think that’s what we’re going through right now.”

The Lakers (28-34) will look to extend their winning streak to six against the also-hot Portland Trail Blazers (37-26) on Monday night at Staples Center. Portland, which sat third in the West entering play Sunday, has won six consecutive games.