There is no better look at how compacted the Western Conference playoff race is than Sunday night’s game between the Knicks and Lakers. Had the Lakers won the contest, they would have moved into a 3-way tie for the seventh seed with the Mavericks and Timberwolves with matching .500 records at 34-34.
Instead, the Lakers lost, dropped to 33-35 and into a four-way tie for the ninth seed. Because of tiebreakers, they dropped out of the play-in race and into the 11th seed as things stand heading into Monday’s game.
Get ready for this trend to only continue until the end of the season unless the Lakers really rip off a huge winning streak.
Games to Watch
Timberwolves at Hawks - The Lakers already have lost the tiebreaker to Minnesota, so it’s extra imperative to completely pass them in the standings.
Jazz at Heat - The Lakers are going to have a chance at season’s end to level the season series with Utah, but as things stand, they’re ahead of them and in the play-in spots.
Grizzlies at Mavericks - Things weren’t going great for Dallas even with Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. With them out, Dallas is free-falling down the standings.
Suns at Warriors - Golden State showed life against the Bucks and could maybe, possibly, finally start playing like a defending champion and not a play-in team?
Nets at Thunder - Brooklyn already helped the Lakers out last week and are going to have a couple more opportunities to do so again this season.
Knicks at Trail Blazers - The Knicks haven’t been very helpful, on the flip side, by losing to the Clippers and beating the Lakers. A little redemption in beating Portland, who is falling behind in the playoff race, would be helpful.
Celtics at Timberwolves - I would never fault a Lakers fan for not wanting to root for Boston, but the Celtics’ upcoming West Coast road trip is going to feature multiple games in which them winning would be helpful.
Mavericks at Spurs - San Antonio already has well more than their regular allotment of monthly wins, so expect the tanking to resume.
Warriors at Clippers - A sort of win-win/lose-lose for the Lakers. It’s not fun to root for either franchise but a loss from either helps the Lakers.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.