Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Looking Up In the Standings: How the Lakers Can Make the Postseason

My latest from Silver Screen and Roll. Dig it? Dig it. 

Will the Lakers win the championship? Will the Lakers win the Western Conference? Will the Lakers have home court advantage in the postseason? Will the Lakers be able to win four series in a row on the road?

Will the Lakers make the playoffs? 

There's been a sad, slow degenerating line of questions toppling from August of last year to late January. The once title-tilted Lakers now find themselves in a nightly quest to beat anyone, let alone the class of the NBA.

LA finds itself in an unfamiliar spot: looking up in the standings and finding 11 teams ahead of them. The Western Conference has thus far shaken itself into several different categories: at the top is the foursome of the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers. Each of these teams have established themselves as mid-season title contenders, some with more weaknesses than others. In the second tier lies the Golden State Warriors experiencing a rare surge of on-court success, as well as the Denver Nuggets rebounding after a slow start.

After those six? It's a six-team scrum for the last two spots. There's little doubt that barring a cataclysmic injury (or set of injuries), five of the top six teams will make the playoffs (the only pause comes in the form of the Warriors, who are playing--and more specifically, defending--way beyond expectations, and have seen only a healthy Stephen Curry thus far). This leaves the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets (both currently in the top 8), Portland Trailblazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks all separated by just 5 games in the standings.

Last season, prorated for a full, 82 game schedule, the eighth seeded Jazz won 45 games at a .545 winning percentage. To get to that shockingly lofty plateau, the Lakers would have to go 28-13 in their last 41 contests, a .683 winning percentage. Putting that in perspective, the Lakers be on track for a 56-26 if they were winning at that clip. At this point, that record is nearly mathematically impossible.

LA has 19 home games compared to just 23 road games left, including 23 against teams .500 or better. It's not a particularly favorable schedule from here on out, but they've also played the league's 10th toughest schedule thus far according to ESPN.com. Moreover, out of all the teams they're fighting for the bottom two seeds with, they have the worst home to road game ratio.

In a sentence? This won't be easy. In another? They'll need some help. Let's take a look at what the other Western Conference third-class citizens are facing going forward into the second half of the season, and what, if anything, behooves our guys in the purple & gold:

Check the rest out after the jump at SS&R

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