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.
At the beginning of the week, the Lakers had finally crept into the play-in race after spending so much of the season as the No. 13 seed and on the outside looking in. A handful of days later and heading into the weekend, they are fully involved in the play-in and playoff race.
In reality, almost everything went the Lakers way this week. The Pelicans, Mavericks and Jazz all lost notable games, the last of those coming against the Spurs(!), all helping the Lakers absorb a loss to the Grizzlies and stay in the middle of the race.
Heading into the weekend and ahead of Thursday’s games, the Lakers are in the 11th seed and one game back of both of the current ninth and 10th seeds in Utah and New Orleans, respectively. They sit two games behind the Mavericks for the 7th seed and 2.5 games back of the Warriors and Clippers just outside the play-in game on the other side.
Games to Watch
Clippers at Warriors - As just noted, these two teams are on the other side of the play-in race but the Clippers are slipping. For tiebreaker purposes and the fact they don’t have the one with the Clippers, root for them to win and Golden State to lose.
Trail Blazers at Hawks - Portland kicks off a six-game road trip in Atlanta that includes Boston and Philly as well, This could be a make-or-break stretch for them and, for the Lakers, hopefully it’s the latter.
Jazz at Thunder - Oklahoma City looks like they have entered tanking mode. They’re quickly slipping out of the playoff race but hopefully they have a couple of strong performances left to help the Lakers, like in this one.
Pelicans at Warriors - Really kind of a win-win scenario. There isn’t necessarily a bad result here. The Pelicans are certainly the more immediate threat in the playoff race, though.
Clippers at Kings - Not only can you continue to root for the Clippers to keep struggling in the Russell Westbrook era, it can also benefit the Lakers directly!
Timberwolves at Kings - It’s going to be painful to continue to root for Sacramento but they could really do the Lakers some solids this weekend.
Suns at Mavericks - Speaking of painfully rooting for teams, the Suns could help the Lakers with a win here but it’s really hard to root for them.
Trail Blazers at Magic - Orlando helped the Lakers with a win over New Orleans early in the week. Portland isn’t many more consecutive losses away from really falling off the pace in the West.
Jazz at Thunder - Yes, these two teams do play each other twice in two days in the same location. And if OKC is really tanking, this could be a pair of rough results for the Lakers.
Grizzlies at Clippers - After beating them this week, Memphis can atone that with a win over the Clippers to wrap up the weekend.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.