The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are finding ways to keep the end of the season interesting. Their eternal rivals, the Boston Celtics, closed the door on the play-in race in the Eastern Conference by losing to the Cavaliers, so the only race left is in the west.
They took on the league-worst Houston Rockets today without Anthony Davis, LeBron James, or Dennis Schroder, but still squeaked through with a 124-122 victory in LA. It was a huge win, their third in a row, but the odds are still heavily stacked against them.
There is only one scenario left that allows the Lakers to avoid the play-ins. One of the two teams above them, the Blazers and Mavericks, must drop both remaining games. The Lakers also need to win their final two games to finish with a 42-30 record.
That’s easier said than done, considering the form that Portland and Dallas are on. The Blazers are on a five-game winning streak and 9-1 in their last ten games. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are 8-2 in their last ten.
As strange as it sounds, the Lakers’ hopes probably rely more on the scalding-hot Blazers. That’s because Dallas play the Raptors and Wolves next, and it’s tough to see them dropping both of those games. Portland, on the other hand, take on Phoenix and Denver, two contenders that are still trying to jockey for their final seeding.
It’s a tough road, and tomorrow could decide the Lakers’ fate. The Blazers play at 10am tomorrow and if they win, that’s probably all she wrote. If that’s the case, what we’ll be waiting for next is to see who the Lakers play in the first game of the play-ins: the Warriors or Grizzlies.