While the examples continue to grow, the last three days have been a perfect representation of the wildness of the Western Conference playoff race for the Lakers. On Sunday, the Lakers loss meant instead of being tied for the seventh seed, the team was tied for the ninth seed and, because of tiebreakers dropped out of the play-in race down to the 11th seed.
But without playing a game, by tip-off on Tuesday, the team had moved back up to the ninth seed. Tuesday’s game held a lot of long-term importance as the team secured the tiebreaker over the Pelicans, a side that has been with them in the muck of the play-in race for much of the second half of this season.
In the short term though, because of the results around the league going on at the same time, the Lakers won a game on Tuesday and moved down in the standings to the tenth seed.
After the win over the Pelicans, Anthony Davis — following his monster showing against New Orleans — was asked about the absurdity of the playoff race.
“That’s the Western Conference for you,” Davis said. “It just goes, for me, just thinking if I play somewhat decent in the New York game, we have a chance to win the game, where could we be? Maybe tied for sixth or something, I don’t know. But we control our own destiny...We just have to keep winning basketball games.”
There are going to be lots of “what ifs” the Lakers are going to ponder upon this season. And most of them are going to be far more impactful than the Knicks game.
What if the Lakers didn’t start 2-10 this season? What if they didn’t wait 50 games to pull off a trade? What if any or all of the four missed calls this season go the Lakers way?
That last point could be the biggest one to look back on. A four-game flip would mean the Lakers were 38-33 instead of 34-35 and in the fourth seed currently. It’s certainly not that simple and really only two of the games felt like the outcome was heavily influenced in the Boston and Dallas games.
Even then, flip those results in the Lakers favor and they’re tied for the fifth seed instead of in the 10th seed.
The “what ifs” though should be left to the fans to ponder and wonder about as the Lakers do still control their own destiny, as Davis notes. Friday’s game against the Mavericks will be another huge one as will remaining games against the Jazz, Thunder, Clippers and Timberwolves.
The Lakers control their fate in a wild, wild West, but it’s been a long season of anything goes in the playoff race and that’s certainly not going to change now.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.