The Utah Jazz also won on Friday to keep pace one game behind the Lakers, but time is a factor as both teams have two games remaining in the regular season. The Jazz appeared to catch a break when the Lakers lost Bryant, but Utah still needs the Lakers to lose a game to take advantage of owning the tie-breaker.
The scenario for the Lakers to make the playoffs is easy: win and in. The Lakers finish the regular season at home with games against the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. Both playoff teams will present a challenge (oh, and no Kobe), but if the Lakers win both games they will clinch a spot in the playoffs.
If the Lakers split the final two games, they will need Utah to lose one of their remaining games. The Jazz finish the season on the road at the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies. That means the Lakers could clinch on Sunday with a win over the Spurs and a Utah loss at Minnesota.
Again, no Kobe, which means this race could go down to the final game of the season.
Here is a look at the current Western Conference match-ups if the playoffs started today:
Thunder (1) vs. Lakers (8)
Spurs (2) vs. Rockets (7)
Nuggets (3) vs. Warriors (6)
Clippers (4) vs. Grizzlies (5) - Memphis would have home-court advantage
|1||y - Oklahoma City||59||21||.738||-||Won 3||8-2|
|2||y - San Antonio||58||21||.734||½||Won 1||5-5|
|3||x - Denver||54||25||.684||4 ½||Lost 1||7-3|
|4||y - LA Clippers||53||26||.671||5 ½||Won 4||6-4|
|5||x - Memphis||54||25||.684||4 ½||Won 3||7-3|
|6||x - Golden State||45||35||.563||14||Lost 2||6-4|
|7||x - Houston||44||35||.557||14 ½||Lost 1||6-4|
|8||LA Lakers||43||37||.538||16||Won 3||7-3|