If you ask people around the NBA who is playing the best basketball among the teams currently vying for the West’s eight seed, most would say the Los Angeles Lakers. If you ask who has the better chance at gaining that eighth seed, you probably wouldn’t get the same answer. While most people would say that the Lakers have too many injuries, distractions, or whatever it may be to gain a spot in the playoffs, the real derailment in their playoff hopes will be their remaining schedule.
The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks both have tough games remaining, but their schedules are considerably less tough than the Lakers. After looking at all three teams schedules, and judging games that each is almost guaranteed to lose, the Mavericks have three such games, the Jazz have three, but the Lakers have five.
The Lakers five losses, at least judging from their current play and the way they have played these opponents in the past, will more than likely come to these teams: at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, and Houston Rockets.
The game against the Trail Blazers is on the road, where the Lakers are horrible. It’s also the second game in a back-to-back, which the Lakers have yet to win this season, which is the first time in franchise history. This Sunday’s game against the Clippers will be tough but I just don’t think the Lakers can pull it off.
The iffy games that the Lakers may be able to eke out and gain a leg up for the chase will be their home games against the Spurs and Rockets. The Lakers should have beaten the Spurs at home earlier this season but instead, decided to stop playing defense at the end of the game and allow an easy lay-up for a Spurs win.
The Rockets game will be tough because of two guys: James Harden and Jeremy Lin. People were bagging on the Rockets all off-season for missing out on Dwight Howard and signing Lin to such a huge contract, but the formula has worked. Lin is playing very well and Harden is showing he truly is a max contract type player.
While I do believe that the Lakers have the toughest schedule remaining, and are in danger of missing the playoffs, something else tells me that they will find a way to win some key games and sneak themselves into the playoffs. Focusing on a win Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies will be the Lakers first step in trying to prove many doubters wrong.
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