Heading into Wednesday, the final day of the NBA regular season, there is still a lot left to determine, insofar as L.A.’s playoff hopes are concerned.
With Golden State’s win Monday over San Antonio the 6-seed is no longer an option. But the Lakers still do have three slots available (though one isn’t exactly ideal) thanks to Houston’s inexcusable loss in Phoenix. Here’s how it breaks down:
- If the Lakers win Wednesday, they’re the 7-seed and play San Antonio.
- If the Lakers lose but Utah loses to Memphis, L.A. is the 8-seed and plays Oklahoma City.
- If the Lakers lose and the Jazz win… L.A. misses the playoffs and it’s pitchforks and torches for the citizenry! Castle storming time!
The Lakers got more good news Monday, beyond the Suns doing them a solid. When the Grizzlies beat Dallas, it ensured they’d have something to play for Wednesday hosting the Jazz — the possibility of securing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. (Remember, as a division winner, the Clippers can’t fall any lower than a 4-seed, but if the 5 ends up with a better record that team has HCA.)
Tipoff between the Jazz and Grizzlies is at 5 pm Pacific, so the Lakers will have a good idea of what’s going on by the time they take the floor against Houston. Should Memphis pull through, the Lakers could take the court knowing they’re in the top eight. That would have to be a nice weight off their shoulders. At that point, it becomes about climbing up a seed, something they’ll definitely want to do.
While I still think playing without James Harden will hurt OKC in the playoffs — he was the guy serving as the bridge between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant late in games, allowing both to aggressively seek out points — San Antonio is struggling with their own injury issues and hasn’t been playing all that well over the last week or two because of it.
Not that I’d actually pick the Lakers to win, assuming San Antonio has Tony Parker at their disposal. If Manu Ginobili is back in time for the first round — a growing possibility — L.A.’s odds grow even longer. The Spurs may not get up and down the floor as explosively as OKC, but they play plenty fast when they want (check the pace factors) and are more than capable of punishing the Lakers in transition, and are disciplined enough to exploit every defensive mistake in half court sets.
I.e., they’re really good, better than the Lakers. That said, from a matchup standpoint L.A. would be better off with San Antonio.
And now to the good luck part. While I realize “snakebitten” doesn’t adequately describe the team’s problems this year – Kobe’s Achilles injury being the worst example but far from the only — they have been the beneficiaries of one massive bit of good fortune.
Over the last three full seasons, the eighth seed in the Western Conference has averaged 48 wins. The Lakers could get in with 44, might only need 45, and if they win not only would the latter give them a playoff berth, it would actually elevate them into the 7th spot.
I suspect most fans won’t consider everything all square, but at least the pendulum swung L.A.’s way on one major issue for the 2012-13 season.