While the Lakers are stumbling, bumbling and fumbling their way to the finish line of the regular season and falling out of play-in game contention, the Spurs are doing the exact opposite with their spot becoming more solidified by the day.
Keldon Johnson scored 28 points to lead the undermanned Spurs — down Jakob Poeltl and Dejounte Murray on the night — to a victory over the vastly, vastly undermanned Trail Blazers, 113-92. The end result is San Antonio moving two games clear of the Lakers for the 10th seed in the Western Conference with just four games remaining.
Neither team will play on Monday as the league as a whole takes the day off for the NCAA Championship Game. Both return on Tuesday, with the Lakers in absolute must-win territory as they travel to Phoenix while the Spurs host the same Nuggets team that downed the Lakers on Sunday.
In the most long-shot of scenarios, the Pelicans’ loss to the Clippers on Sunday night still leaves open the exceedingly remote possibility of the Lakers getting the ninth seed as they’re three games back. With New Orleans holding the tiebreaker, the Lakers would have to win each of their remaining games with the Pelicans losing all four of theirs for the Lakers to pass them.
With the Spurs, there’s only slightly more leeway. They will own the tiebreaker over the Lakers in conference record, meaning if they win just two of their remaining four games this season, the Lakers cannot pass them.
It feels as inevitable as ever, then, that the Lakers will be eliminated from the play-in game. Now it’s just a matter of when, not if.