Battle LA: Los Angeles Lakers Find Themselves Suddenly Out of Playoff Picture

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With a loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves sitting in the ninth seed of the Western Conference. At 40-37, they are tied with the Utah Jazz who currently own the tiebreaker and are holding the eighth seed at the moment.

Kobe Bryant may have ended with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, but he sure did not have an efficient game shooting-wise. Going six for 19 from the field, Bryant looked a little off his typical super hero play as of late.

Blake Griffin matched Dwight Howard‘s production offensively and also out-rebounded him 12-4. If the Lakers are to have a shot of closing out the season holding the Western Conference’s last playoff spot, Howard cannot get manhandled like that from a guy who is smaller than he is. Howard is the best center in the NBA when he is clicking on all cylinders, but that has been the problem for him this year. He has failed to click mentally in a lot of games, resulting in a less-than-admirable performance in some aspect of his game.

For the Jazz, they have three games remaining against playoff teams along with two against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The games against the Wolves are absolutely must-win. Out of the other three, I believe they will need to win at least one, and possibly two. Those matchups include the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. It will be a tall task for the Jazz to close out the season in the position they find themselves in at the moment.

The Lakers also have three games remaining against playoff teams in the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and the Warriors. Their other two contests are against the New Orleans Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers. I see the Lakers winning against the two of the latter teams, and more than likely being able to pull it out against the Rockets and Warriors. If the Spurs rest their big names, the Lakers may be able to win out the rest of their season.

It will be a close finish for the final seed in the West, and as fans we sure love it that way. A Lakers and Spurs matchup in the first round would be a great series to watch. Playoff basketball is always different for Bryant, and I have a feeling Howard may change his mentality a little bit as well if they were to get in. Of course, wouldn’t the idea be to make that change now? We’ll see.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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