With a 5.5 game lead over the No. 2 seed Clippers, the Lakers virtually have the No. 1 seed locked up. In order to actually clinch the No. 1 seed, the Lakers have to win just three of their eight seeding games in Orlando.
However, outside of bragging rights, there’s no real advantage to securing the No. 1 seed other than getting an easier matchup in the first round — and even then, whichever team clinches the No. 8 seed will have earned their right to be there. By that same logic, there’s little incentive for the Lakers to play these seeding games outside of conditioning. Rob Pelinka doesn’t see things that way — at least not entirely.
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager, outlined what he expects to see from his team before the postseason starts.
“I think because there is no home-court advantage, I think the thing that teams will be looking at the most in terms of teams that are in the playoffs is ‘how will the matchups look?’” Pelinka said. “I think that’s something that we will clearly have our eye on, but I think the goal is to use those games to get back to a winning mindset, to look at the implications on seeding, and then to physically and mentally ready ourselves to be back in peak form for when the first round of the playoffs start.”
For the most part, the Lakers already have a ton of film on the teams they’ll likely see in the postseason, but there are two teams — the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors — that they’ve only played once, and they lost to both of them, so those games will have some significance to them. They’ll also play the Houston Rockets, a team that stunned them with their super small ball in February.
Above all else, though, the seeding games will allow the Lakers to get reacclimated with each other — or in Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith’s case, just acclimated — and conditioned for the games that really count. Anything else they gain from those games is gravy — specifically sausage gravy because it is the superior gravy.