As the 2012-2013 NBA regular season comes to a close, a lot can still change for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers enter the final day of the season as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. However, the team can either move up in the standings or fall completely out of the postseason picture.
At 44-37, the Lakers are sandwiched between the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz. The No.7 seed Rockets have a one game lead on Los Angeles, and the Jazz are one game behind L.A. With the entire NBA in action on Wednesday, each team has a chance to improve their standing in the West.
The Lakers control their own destiny as they get set to play game No.82. They face Houston on Wednesday night at Staples Center in a battle for the seventh seed. A win for L.A. would give the clubs the same record, but the Lakers own the tiebreaker.
The difference between having the seventh and eighth seed could be an important one in the playoffs.
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The seventh seed will face the San Antonio Spurs, who’ve lost six of their last nine games. Tony Parker has struggled since returning from his ankle injury and it’s unknown when Manu Ginobili will be ready to play.
The eighth seed is set to draw the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. The Thunder have played very well in the final month, losing just one game in April.
The Rockets still have a chance to move up to the sixth seed. A win for them and a loss for the Golden State Warriors would put Houston in the sixth slot.
If the Lakers can’t get past Houston, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. Utah would have to win their game in order to make the postseason. Even though the Jazz are a game behind Los Angeles, their head-to-head record with the Lakers gives them the tiebreaker.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, they’re scheduled to visit the Memphis Grizzlies, who still have an incentive to win their final game. As the No.5 seed, the Grizzlies are guaranteed to play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Home-court advantage is still up for grabs, though, as a win by the Grizzles and a loss for the Clippers would give Memphis the No.4 seed.
Wednesday could turn out poorly for the Lakers, but the odds are in their favor. They are 2.5-point favorites against Houston, a team that struggles mightily on the road.
Even if the Lakers slip up at home, the Jazz will still have their hands full with Memphis. The Grizzlies are 2-1 against the Jazz this season and enter the game as 4.5-point favorites.
When Kobe Bryant when down with a season-ending injury, many viewed it as the unofficial end of the Lakers season. However, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have proven that they can still be top performers in the NBA. Look for the duo to have step up and get L.A. into the playoffs with some momentum.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers Over Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies Over Utah Jazz