Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers held the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference from Nov. 1, 2020 to when the regular season ended on August 13. It marked the first time since the 2009-10 season that the Lakers finished the season as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They won the championship that season too.
They got off to a similar start this season, losing only four times in their first 15 games. The Lakers took over as the No. 1 seed on Jan. 5, but their longest stretch as the No. 1 seed was from Jan. 8 to Jan. 20.
Now 31 games into the season, the Lakers are currently seeded at No. 2 spot in the Western Conference; 2.5 games behind the Utah Jazz and just a half game ahead of the LA Clippers. While they’d like to be sitting comfortably at the top of the Western Conference like they were at this time last season, it’s not their No. 1 priority for a multitude of reasons.
“I don’t really know that it’s as imperative as past years,” Kyle Kuzma said on Saturday. “There’s not really a home court advantage and regardless, before you get to the Finals, you’re going to play the Clippers or the Jazz, or you’re going to play somebody that’s up there. It doesn’t really matter too much.
“Bron was a four seed his last year in Cleveland and went to the Finals. It doesn’t matter.”
To an extent, Kuzma is right: if the Lakers are truly the best team in the Western Conference — and in the NBA as a whole — then it shouldn’t matter which seed they go into the postseason as. But, in an ideal world, the Lakers won’t have to play the Clippers and Jazz before they play in a potential NBA Finals series. That’s a lot of basketball agains two really good teams.
The Lakers will have an opportunity to close the gap between them and the Jazz on Wednesday, when they’ll play them in Salt Lake City. However, with both Dennis Schröder and Anthony Davis already ruled out for Wednesday’s contest, it will be hard to take anything away from the result of that game.
If the Lakers win on Wednesday, then they’ll obviously be satisfied. But if they don’t and they fall further in the standings, their confidence in what they’re building as a team won’t wane.
“We know we want to be No. 1 in the West,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We are the defending champs, that’s our mindset and our motivation. We still want to be No. 1 in the West. But for us, we’re just about winning. It don’t matter what seed we are. We just want to win, make the playoffs, the postseason and just be ready to defend the title.”