By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Denver coach George Karl may have said it best last week, mirroring the inner thoughts of his Western Conference brethren after the Nuggets won in Utah on Wednesday and vaulted the Lakers back into eighth place in the West.
“I hate helping the Lakers,” Karl joked to reporters.
But since that Denver win, the Lakers have faltered again, losing to the Clippers on Sunday and dropping a half-game behind the Jazz for the conference’s final playoff spot.
Utah has won two straight and holds the tiebreaker, with only four games to play (five for LA), putting the Jazz in a pretty comfortable position. Let’s take a quick look at the scenarios:
-If Utah goes 4-0, they’re in the playoffs.
-If Utah goes 3-1, the Lakers must go 5-0 to hop them.
-If Utah goes 2-2, the Lakers must go 4-1 to hop them.
-If Utah goes 1-3, the Lakers must go 3-2 to hop them.
-If Utah goes 0-4, the Lakers must go 2-3 to hop them.
So it becomes clear that the Lakers need help, potentially big help, depending on how they play down the stretch.
And that brings us to the Thunder and their game in Utah tonight. OKC wants to win, hoping to still jump past the Spurs and claim home court in the Western Coference playoffs.
But in doing so, they would be greatly helping the Lakers cause. It’s surely not something OKC players or coaches will think about during the game or talk about before or after.
But it provides us with an interesting side plot within the game, especially considering, if the Thunder do claim the top seed in the West, this race between the Jazz and Lakers would decide OKC’s first round opponent.
Here’s the remaining schedule for both competing teams:
-vs Thunder on Tuesday
-vs Minnesota on Friday
-at Minnesota on Monday
-at Memphis next Wednesday
-vs Hornets on Tuesday
-at Portland on Wednesday
-vs Golden State on Friday
-vs San Antonio on Sunday
-vs Houston next Wednesday