The Lakers Still Need An Epic Collapse To Miss The Postseason

LeBron James of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers reacts after a basket during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Arena on February 16, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

After Saturday night’s loss to the Washington Wizards, the Los Angeles Lakers fell to 30-41 on the year.

LeBron James passed Karl Malone for second on the all-time NBA scoring list.

But that was about the only highlight of the night.

The loss, paired with the New Orleans Pelicans win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, puts the Lakers in a tie for ninth place in the Western Conference.

But because New Orleans owns the head-to-head record this year, Los Angeles sits at 10th in the standings.

They are 27.5 games out of first place and 11.5 games out of sixth.

With just 11 games left in the season, LA is locked into the play-in tournament.

For a team that came into the season with title aspirations, the season has been an abject disappointment.

But even still, the season is not over.

San Antonio, sitting at 11th in the West, is still 2.5 games behind the Lakers.

The 12th-ranked Portland Trail Blazers are 3.5 back.

Pending a monumental collapse over the last two weeks of the regular season, LA should still make the postseason.

Lakers Only Team Truly Fighting for Postseason

The one factor that plays into the Lakers’ favor is the teams surrounding them in the standings don’t need to make the playoffs.

New Orleans recently officially ruled Zion Williamson out for the rest of the season.

While CJ McCollum was a splash addition at the deadline, the Pelicans are still a team building for the future.

San Antonio is another team with an eye towards the future.

They have remained competitive but are focused on developing their prospects for next year.

The Trail Blazers waived the white flag at the trade deadline once Damian Lillard opted into (what would become) season-ending surgery and McCollum was shipped to New Orleans.

James and the Lakers are the only team of those four who need the playoffs.

James is not looking to throw away seasons just three years away from turning 40.

Most of the Lakers’ roster is also older veterans who surely want one more taste of playoff basketball.

The Lakers’ remaining schedule is daunting but the 2.5-game lead provides them some cushion.

Especially over teams that may not be actively trying to win games.

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