The Lakers will meet the Phoenix Suns in the quarterfinals, as was the most likely case coming into Tuesday’s games.
Only the Timberwolves matched the Suns’ record of 3-1 in In-Season Tournament play as a potential Wild Card team. However, Minnesota had a point differential significantly lower than Phoenix’s.
That means the Lakers will now face the Suns five times this season with the extra game coming on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. PT now.
In-Season Tournament Quarterfinals schedule ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/DoCFeNukmE— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 29, 2023
If the Lakers win, the semi-finals will take place on Dec. 7 and the finals on Dec. 9..
Original story follows.
The Lakers took care of business in their In-Season Tournament games, allowing them to sit back on Tuesday worry-free. await their next opponent and think about all the money they could win in the coming weeks.
Officially, the Lakers have not sealed the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Sacramento is also unbeaten in Group C, but has a significantly lower point differential. The Kings would need to beat the Warriors by 45 points to make it interesting.
In the event of them winning by exactly 45 points, the two sides would have identical point differentials and it would come down to points scored. Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Lakers have scored 136 more points than the Kings during the In-Season Tournament.
Effectively, short of the Kings scoring at least 136 points and winning by at least 45 points, the Lakers are going to head into the knockout rounds as the top seed. And the Warriors will be motivated to perform as they could potentially still advance to the knockout rounds themselves.
On that note, there are a number of teams the Lakers could still play in the quarterfinals. In the unlikely event they fall to the No. 2 seed and play the Pelicans, the Lakers will play the Wild Card team from group play.
As things stand, the Phoenix Suns are the leaders in the clubhouse for the Wild Card spot with a 3-1 record and a +34 point differential. They’ll also be sitting at home watching things unfold, but in a far more uncertain position.
In Group B, the only possible team that could earn the Wild Card spot is the Rockets, who have a chance. Houston has a 2-1 record and a +16 point differential and will play the Mavericks. The two sides haven’t met this year and Dallas is out of the running, though they have been a terrific team this season. The Rockets would need to win by at least 18 points to pass the Suns.
Group C is where things are more spicy as three teams are alive. We already discussed the Kings’ situation, but the Timberwolves and Warriors also are alive.
If Golden State beats the Kings and Minnesota beats the Thunder, the three teams would be tied with wins over each other. At that point, it would come down to how much the Warriors win by tomorrow and how much Minnesota would beat OKC by as point differential would be the next tiebreaker.
If the Timberwolves lose, then the winner of the Kings/Warriors game will finish first in the group and the loser is out of the tournament. There is a scenario in which two teams come out of Group C, but it would require a huge blowout win from Minnesota — to the tune of nearly 40 points — and either Sacramento winning or Golden State winning in a rout.
In short, if Sacramento wins, they win the group. Minnesota could still earn the Wild Card with the aforementioned huge win, though it’s unlikely. If Golden State wins and Minnesota wins, things will get interesting with the point differential.
But outside of unlikely blowout wins in numerous games across numerous groups, the Lakers are likely set to play the Suns for a third time in the first two months of the season. It could be a blessing in disguise with Phoenix still not at full strength, but each of the previous two games have been tight.
There’s a lot of moving parts, all of which makes it even better the Lakers have their business taken care of and can watch and enjoy on Tuesday.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.