For as bad as the Lakers season was trending in the middle stages of the season, the possibility of the team missing the postseason entirely felt impossible, both a mixture of not believing matters could get that bad for the Lakers and the acknowledgment of just how bad the bottom of the Western Conference was.
Technically, the Lakers and Spurs are tied on records and the Spurs own the tiebreaker of better conference record, a tiebreaker they’re going to keep as they have five more wins against the Western Conference than the Lakers with only seven games left.
So, now, if the Lakers are going to make the play-in game, the math is simple: win one more game in the last seven than the Spurs. If they accomplish that, it doesn’t matter what the Pelicans, who are a game above both teams, do in their remaining games as the Lakers will guarantee themselves a spot above San Antonio.
The problem, as it has been all along, is the schedules for each of the three teams. On Wednesday, the Spurs will have their toughest remaining game against Memphis at home which could lead to the Lakers moving back into the play-in game with a loss. New Orleans, though, plays one of their two remaining games against a Blazers team that has won two of their last 16 games.
The Spurs will get two cracks at that Blazers team, too, which is why Lakers fans probably shouldn’t feel too optimistic right now about their chances. Still, though, barring a huge upset by San Antonio on Wednesday, the Lakers will move back into the play-in race with a Spurs loss to the Grizzlies and would, theoretically, hold their fate in their own hands.
But it’s not a fate they seem particularly interested in or capable of directing toward a positive ending this season.