The Lakers bouncing back with a win on Wednesday and a handful of results going their way in recent days has them in the eight seed and only 1.5 games removed from the sixth seed. And with a really important matchup on Friday and another big game next week, there is a realistic chance the Lakers avoid the play-in altogether.
After Wednesday’s contest, here’s what the standings look like from the fourth seed to the 12th seed in the Western Conference.
Of the Lakers final six games, five of them come against teams in this picture. Contests against Minnesota and the Clippers are going to be huge, but the Lakers are effectively still just as close to the 11th seed as they are to the sixth seed.
Considering how the Lakers starters looked on Wednesday, though, it’s hard not to have optimism about how things could play out in the coming week. Even then, they’re going to need help.
Games to Watch
Pelicans at Nuggets - One of the two games on the docket has a notable impact on the Lakers as the Pelicans, who sit right behind the purple and gold, play the top team in the conference.
Thunder at Pacers - OKC may have gone some way in saving their season on Wednesday with a late, late game-winner. They’re hanging on by a thread but against a Pacers team very not interested in winning, this would be another big ask unless Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out again.
Clippers at Grizzlies - If the Lakers are to pass the Clippers in the standings, it’s going to require some help and a win by Memphis would be a great start to that.
Spurs at Warriors - While Golden State is the team closer to the Lakers to fall into the play-in game, a loss to the Spurs would qualify as perhaps the worst loss of any team at the bottom of the playoff race this year.
Nuggets at Suns - Phoenix has been teetering on the edge of falling into the play-in race. Beating the Timberwolves helped them stay arms length away and another win or two would probably secure a spot above the play-in games.
Mavericks at Heat - Both of the games on the schedule for Saturday impact the Lakers. The Mavericks are plummeting down the standings and can’t afford hardly any more losses.
Clippers at Pelicans - Who to root for in this matchup may depend on results earlier in the week. Ultimately, the Pelicans are going to be the more direct threat to the Lakers and any loss from them is going to help. But if, and only if, the Pelicans lose earlier in the week as well as the Clippers to the Grizzlies and there’s a little wiggle room, the Clippers losing and moving closer to the Lakers wouldn’t be the worst outcome.
Jazz at Nets - Utah is slipping into a place where they are out of play-in contention, which they may not hate given their potential desire for a high draft pick.
Trail Blazers vs. Timberwolves - Portland doesn’t have much left in the tank and Damian Lillard is sitting out, so expecting wins from them the rest of the way is another fruitless task.
Mavericks vs. Hawks - Two teams that need wins down the stretch, but Dallas doesn’t seem to be doing much winning. On the second night of a road back-to-back, the Mavs are going to need some guile to win this one and that’s not an attribute Dallas has shown.
Suns at Thunder - It feels unlikely the Lakers are going to catch Phoenix. So, as gross as it’s going to feel, rooting for the Suns is the call here.
Warriors at Nuggets - Denver could do a handful of favors to the Lakers this weekend. And if the Lakers are going to move out of the play-in game, they’re going to need Golden State to drop some games.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.