Looking at what Lakers need to do to secure No. 2 seed in the West and home-court implications against Miami and Boston
The biggest concern regarding the Lakers' current five-game losing streak involves setting themselves up for the more difficult task of ensuring home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs -- at least for the first two rounds.
Even if the Lakers have maintained all along that health and quality of play is more important than securing home-court advantage, there's no need to make that destination any harder to reach. That's why the Lakers have at least conceded they're aiming for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference. It's a fate they still technically control, but there's no room for error. The Mavericks (56-25) are half a game ahead of the Lakers (55-25) for the second spot in the West after their 98-91 victory over Houston on Monday night, while Oklahoma City (55-25) only sits half a game behind the Lakers for third place.
Dallas has one game remaining against New Orleans (46-35) on Wednesday, meaning the Lakers would secure the No. 2 seeding if they win their remaining two games Tuesday against San Antonio (61-19) and Wednesday at Sacramento (24-57). Even if Dallas beats New Orleans, the Lakers winning out would secure the tiebreaker over the Mavericks because the Lakers won the Pacific Division. Should the Lakers lose one of their two remaining games, they would only secure a higher seeding if Dallas lost to New Orleans.
The scenarios surrounding the Thunder make the seedings implications a tad more complicated. The Mavericks' victory over New Orleans would prevent the Thunder from surpassing them in the playoff seedings. If Dallas lost to New Orleans and Oklahoma City defeated the Bucks in their season finale on Wednesday, the Thunder would have a higher seeding than Dallas because OKC won the Northwest Division. The only way the Thunder could have a higher seeding than the Lakers was if L.A. lost its last two games and OKC beat the Bucks. Should the Lakers and Oklahoma City finish with identical records, the Lakers would own the tiebreaker because they won the season series, 2-1.
Even if Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has told his team not to worry about home-court implications with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, the Lakers won't be ringing that tune should they match up in the Finals. Regardless of whether Miami defeats Toronto on Wednesday in their season finale or the Lakers win their last two games, the Heat (57-24) already clinched home-court advantage over the Lakers in an NBA Finals matchup. Even if both teams finished with identical records, Miami has the edge because of its two regular-season wins over the Lakers.
The situation with Boston appears trickier. The Lakers would have home-court advantage over the Celtics (55-26) in an NBA Finals reunion if the defending champions win out, even if Boston wins its last game Wednesday against the New York Knicks. The Lakers would also get the edge if they have an identical record with the Celtics. Since the Lakers are 1-1 this season against the Celtics, the next tiebreaker for NBA Finals home-court advantage is determined by each team’s record against the opposing conference. The Lakers would receive home-court advantage against Boston because they have a 21-9 record against Eastern Conference teams, while the Celtics are 19-11 against the West. The only way Boston has the edge over the Lakers is if L.A. loses its last two games and the Celtics beat New York.
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Photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and his coaching staff can only watch the team's late collapse during a 120-106 loss to the Thunder on Sunday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times