Win and they’re in. It’s that simple for the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the NBA enters the final day of the 2012-2013 regular season, the Lakers are vying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They will look to beat the Houston Rockets, who currently sit in the seventh spot in the West.
Tip-off is set for 10:30 p.m. ET at Staples Center. The game will air on ESPN, but viewers can watch a free live stream online at espn3.com.
A victory for the Lakers would not only guarantee them a playoff spot, but it would also give them the No.7 seed in the conference. Both Los Angeles and Houston would finish the year a 45-37, and L.A. would have the tiebreaker.
Even though the Rockets are already in the playoffs, it doesn’t mean they are going to lie down for the Lakers. Houston still has an opportunity to move up to the sixth seed if the Golden State Warriors lose their game to the Portland Trail Blazers. Doing so would help them avoid playing the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
The Lakers have lost two of their three meetings with the Rockets this year, and they won’t have Kobe Bryant this time. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol will have to step up in his absence, as the two have become the team’s top scoring options.
While the Lakers two-seven footers give them a distinct advantage in the frontcourt, the absence of Bryant and Steve Nash, because of injuries, gives the Rockets an overwhelming advantage in the backcourt.
Jeremy Lin is averaging a season-high 18 points per game in April for Houston. Along with James Harden, L.A. will have the tough task of stopping both guards.
If Lin and company can win on the road, the Lakers still have a chance to back their way into the playoffs. A loss by the Utah Jazz on Wednesday would make a Laker defeat null and void. The Jazz are set to visit the Memphis Grizzlies, who are trying to get home-court advantage in their first round series with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Lakers are expected to take care of business and head into the playoffs with a five-game winning streak. They are listed as 2.5-point favorites at most Las Vegas casinos.