With the Western Conference being a tight-knit race, this will be a twice-weekly series looking at the Western Conference standings and games to watch as the Lakers look to move back into the playoffs.
For effectively the entire season, the Western Conference has been so bad that the Lakers have never truly been out of the race. So much of the discussion has been focused on “if only...” possibilities on the Lakers making a run that wasn’t coming.
Instead, they were staring up at a Western Conference mountain that could be climbed...they just weren’t doing it. Until this weekend. Finally, the Lakers, through their own success, the team actually started that climb.
Sunday’s win from the Lakers was one part of the weekend in climbing up the standings. The Thunder losing all three games out of the All-Star break has been a huge bonus for the Lakers as it’s Oklahoma City that the team passed to move out of 13th and into 12th place.
As things stand ahead of Monday’s games, the Lakers are a single game out of the 10th seed, 2.5 games out of the sixth seed and 3.5 games out of the fourth seed. It’s still a mountain that the Lakers can summit, but it’s a steep one.
Games to Watch
Magic at Pelicans — New Orleans is going to be a recurring team in these articles. As it stands, they’re 10th in the West but have lost three straight and four of the last five.
Kings at Thunder — These types of painful games are going to continue to come up, but Lakers fans are going to have to root for Sacramento in this one. The Thunder are slipping and the more space the Lakers can put between them and OKC, the better.
Pacers at Mavericks — Dallas is still a bit more than arms length away in the playoffs, but they also are 1-4 in the Kyrie Irving Era and are slipping down the standings.
Spurs at Jazz — Rooting for San Antonio is a fruitless task as they’ve lost 16 consecutive American basketball games. They have two (2) wins in 2023. But the Jazz are the current eighth seed and surely, at some point, will start losing.
Trail Blazers at Warriors — This is kind of a win-win scenario for the Lakers as both teams are within reach. There are arguments to root for and against both teams, so it really doesn’t matter who falls in this one.
Timberwolves at Clippers — The Russell Westbrook Era is going swimmingly for the Clippers as they’re 0-2 since signing him. This is another win-win scenario, though Minnesota is the more immediate threat to the Lakers.
Pelicans at Blazers — The two teams immediately above the Lakers in the standings as things stand. This is no bad result here.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.