Looking at the Lakers' playoff seedings
As indicated by the Lakers' four-game losing streak, they clearly want the playoffs to begin today.
But that's not how it works. The NBA consists of 82 regular-season games and whether or not the Lakers actually show up to them, they at least have to be there for attendance purposes. There's a lot more riding on the team's remaining three games than the Lakers just wanting to get them out of the way and move on to the playoffs. There's seeding and home-court implications.
Because of the Lakers' poor play, here's a few things they can check off the list. The Lakers (55-24) are mathematically eliminated from catching the San Antonio Spurs (60-19) for the top seeding in the Western Conference. The Lakers also wouldn't have home-court advantage over the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls (59-20) should they meet in the NBA Finals. That leaves the incentive in games against Oklahoma City on Sunday, San Antonio on Tuesday and Sacramento on Wednesday for jockeying against other teams.
The Lakers are tied with the Boston Celtics (55-24) and Miami Heat (55-24) for third-best overall record. But they could only secure home-court advantage over Miami if the Lakers have a better record since the Heat has beaten them in two regular-season matchups. 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.
The Lakers have a better cushion against Western Conference teams, but not much. They only lead the Dallas Mavericks (54-25) by one game in the standings, though the Lakers have the tie-breaking advantage because they secured the Pacific Division title. Oklahoma City (53-26) trails the Lakers by two games and could surpass the Mavericks for third place, meaning a victory Sunday would help prevent the Lakers from having to play the Thunder in the second round. Even if the Lakers secured the second seeding in the West, it still remains unclear who they will play in the first round. Portland (47-33), New Orleans (46-33) and Memphis (45-34) are all conceivable opponents but it's likely that those last three seedings will not be determined until the final game of the season.
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Photo: Coach Phil Jackson shouts instructions to the Lakers in the fourth quarter of their 93-86 loss in Portlant on Friday night. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press