Breakdown Of The Jazz/Lakers Race For The 8th Spot Out West
Wednesday is the last day of the regular season in the NBA, and 15 teams have punched their ticket to the NBA Playoffs. Only one spot remains, and that spot is in the Western Conference. The Jazz and the Lakers are the two teams going for that coveted final spot, which means that as far as what hoops to watch on Wednesday it should be the Jazz and the Lakers.
The situation for the Lakers is pretty simple. If they beat the Rockets at home they are in the playoffs no matter what and actually get the #7 spot since they hold the tiebreaker with the Rockets. They control their own destiny. As for the Jazz, they need to beat the Grizzlies on the road in Memphis and have the Rockets beat the Lakers on the road in Los Angeles. The odds of both those events happening seem low given that Utah is a shaky road team and the Rockets just got thumped by the Suns.
That being said, the Lakers will not have Steve Nash available, and the Rockets will want to have a bounce back game before the playoffs start, not to mention spoiling the Lakers’ playoff chances and most importantly maybe snagging the #6 seed from the Warriors. Plus, it will be hard for guys like Steve Blake to have big nights again and make up for Kobe’s presence on the court. In order to win against the Rockets with no Kobe, the Lakers will need guys to step up and play a lot bigger than they normally are used to playing. So on those grounds a Rockets victory sounds possible.
As for the Jazz/Grizzlies game, not only are the Jazz weak on the road, but the Grizzlies will be playing to get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, something they’ll really want to have. This isn’t like the Jazz will be playing a team with nothing to play for. The Grizzlies in many respects have more at stake than the Jazz, given that they are a team that could actually make some noise in the playoffs.
The bottom line of this Jazz/Lakers playoff race is it is the Lakers’ race to lose at this point. If they beat the Rockets, they get in the playoffs and grab the #7 seed regardless of the Jazz/Grizzlies result. If they lose, then they are at the mercy of whatever happens in the Grindhouse in Memphis, TN, and at best case finish at #8. The Lakers don’t want to bank on the Jazz losing on the road given that the Jazz have won three straight road games.