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Lakers vs. Jazz Preview: Season finale

There’s still plenty of mystery about how the Western Conference standings will shake out, and the Lakers are set to try and improve their seeding one last time with their final game of the season against the Jazz.

Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

We are here, ladies and gentlemen. The Los Angeles Lakers will play the Utah Jazz on Sunday in what will be the 2022-23 season finale for both teams. With a win, the Lakers would finish the season 43-39, with a winning record already guaranteed after their relatively disappointing 121-107 win over the star-less Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the 2022-23 Lakers are only the sixth team in NBA history to end a season with a winning record after starting 2-10.

However, like the late and undisputably great Kobe Bryant once said: “Job’s not finished.” And boy, is the job far from finished even with only one game remaining. The Lakers head into Saturday’s day of action as the Western Conference’s seventh seed, however, the graphic below shows scenarios in which they can finish as the ninth, eighth, seventh, sixth or even fifth seed after Sunday wraps.

For the truly twisted scenarios of three-or-more-way ties after Sunday’s action, check out the tiebreaker rules here after reading the graphic above to both be prepared for all scenarios and also, just maybe, lose your mind.

But enough about the external factors that will be in play to truly decide how the Lakers’ postseason will start. The motto around here is “Control what you can control.” All the Lakers can do themselves to improve their odds at making a deep playoff run is beating the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

Playoff-like situation

Although the Jazz will be one of the few Western Conference teams on Sunday with nothing to play for and no postseason to look forward to, they may present a unique challenge to the Lakers and their coaching staff that could help prepare them for a deep playoff run.

This will be the second game in only five days that these two teams will have played against each other, with the first narrowly ending in the Lakers’ favor in the form of a 135-133, overtime victory.

Despite the Jazz having a 36-44 record heading into Sunday, they may be a much better team than that. This is due to the fact that most of those losses happened in the latter half of this season amidst many absences from first-time All-Star Lauri Markkanen which invoked the word “tank” in the minds of many NBA (and Jazz) fans. But at the very least, they’re going to give popular teams like the Lakers a fight any time they can.

Expect the same on Sunday, but hopefully, Darvin Ham and the rest of the Lakers staff can learn from their mistakes in the two teams’ previous matchup. Lakers fans will certainly have to hope to see that, not just because we all want them to finish this regular season with a win, but also to provide confidence in Ham being able to make similar adjustments for a playoff series where they will play the same team for four or more games in a row.

There will be much more basketball to watch for Lakers fans on Sunday than the game featuring their favorite team, but whether those other results are prosperous for the Lakers or not, hopefully the purple-and-gold can get a convincing win to carry some momentum into the play-in (or playoffs).

Notes and Updates

  • As for the Lakers injury report, the team is listing D’Angelo Russell (left foot soreness) as probable, while Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) and LeBron James (right foot soreness) are questionable. Dennis Schröder is also being listed as questionable with right Achilles soreness, a new designation that is separate from the neck spasms that held him out on Friday.
  • Schröder’s status will have to be monitored. He missed Friday’s game vs. the Suns with neck soreness that Darvin Ham described as “extreme.” His absence on Friday may have been a simple precaution to give Schröder’s neck a break before the postseason, but a second injury after not playing is slightly concerning on its face.
  • The Jazz beat the Nuggets on Saturday. In their injury report for that game, Jordan Clarkson (left hand finger), Rudy Gay (low back soreness), Talen Horton-Tucker (left ankle soreness), Walker Kessler (concussion), Lauri Markkanen (left hand contusion), and Kelly Olynyk (rest) were all out. Now, obviously Olynyk will probably play Sunday vs. the Lakers given he was only out due to rest, and THT and even Markkanen also seem to be possible players to play on Sunday despite being out the day before. We will see closer to game time on Sunday.

The Lakers and Jazz will tip off at 12:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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