The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers start the last week of the regular season on the outside of the 2022 NBA playoff picture. They can only earn a postseason berth in the play-in tournament, and there’s a real chance that both teams will fail to make the final playoff bracket.

The Nets are locked into the play-in tournament, fighting for a better seed in the standings with four games left. The Lakers are two games out of the play-in tournament, on the verge of being eliminated from the playoff picture entirely.

The Lakers and Nets entered the season as the clear favorites to meet in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Teams seeded No. 7-10 in each conference make the play-in tournament. The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds have two chances to win one game for a postseason berth. The No. 9 and No. 10 seeds must win two straight games to make the final playoff bracket.

A six-game losing streak has dropped the Lakers to the No. 11 seed in the West. The No. 10 seed San Antonio Spurs own the tiebreaker over Los Angeles. L.A. will be eliminated from contention with any combination of two Laker losses or Spur wins.

An ankle injury has kept LeBron James off the court in three of the team’s last four games. Even if James plays the rest of the way, there’s little reason to believe that he can lead the Lakers back to the playoffs.

Despite James making a push for the scoring title, the Lakers are 4-11 in their last 15 games with James in the lineup. Los Angeles is 0-2 since Anthony Davis’ return from injury. The Lakers surrendered 243 total points in those defeats.

The Lakers should be considerable underdogs against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in their next two games. Los Angeles closes out the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets.

The Nets are the East’s No. 10 seed and share the same record as the No. 9 seed Charlotte Hornets. Brooklyn is a game behind the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks. The No. 7 seed Cleveland Cavaliers are 2.5 games up on the Nets and possibly out of reach.

Moving up to No. 8 could be crucial for Brooklyn since it would give them some margin for error. If the standings remain unchanged, the Nets will visit the Hornets in an elimination game.

It was only a week ago that Charlotte beat Brooklyn, 119-110. On March 8, Kyrie Irving scored 50 points in a 132-121 victory over the Hornets.

Kevin Durant is averaging 34.5 points over the last six games. The Nets are just 3-3 during that stretch. Brooklyn’s defense has been awful, surrendering at least 119 points in five of those matchups. Injuries have left Durant and Irving without much help.

Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters Monday that Seth Curry’s ankle injury could keep the guard off the floor for the remainder of the regular season. Ben Simmons has been ruled out until at least the first round of the playoffs, and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will play at all this season.

The Nets will end the regular season with a relatively easy schedule. Brooklyn will play games against the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, none of whom are in the latest playoff picture.

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets Getty Images | Al Bello