Lakers close regular season out against Jazz at home

The Lakers' seeding is still up in the air going into Sunday.

The NBA regular season comes to a close on Sunday. Here are the updated standings for the non-lottery Western Conference teams.

So as of this writing, the Lakers are in 7th place. The NBA has provided a chart of all the possible playoff/play-in scenarios. Check this out.

I know we’re all doing the Charlie Day meme right about now. So I’ll try to keep it as painless as my simple brain can follow:

If the Lakers defeat Utah, they cannot do worse than 7th except in one scenario where the Pelicans, Warriors, and Suns win their games. Then they end up being 8th.

If the Lakers lose to Utah, they’re in 8th place and there are no ifs and buts about that.

In other words, the Lakers’ best interest would be in winning. They don’t want to start out on the road in the play-in. And there are a few scenarios where if the Lakers win and other things happened, they could be in 6th. Then we could reminisce about the 2002 NBA Playoffs. But for now, let’s talk about Sunday afternoon.

The Lakers took on the Utah Jazz last Tuesday in a game that was way too close to Lakers Nation’s liking. And they draw them again in the season finale. Utah has nothing to play for so they’re just going to go all out and play spoiler.

And the Jazz won’t have their stars just like last time. Against the Nuggets on Saturday (which the Jazz won, by the way), Utah didn’t have Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, Walker Kessler, and Talen Horton-Tucker play. Kelly Olynyk and Collin Sexton also sat out Saturday. I definitely don’t expect most of those guys to play on Sunday, either (Kessler is out for concussion protocols).

In their game against the Lakers last Tuesday, it was THT, Olynyk, and Ochai Agbaji that did some damage (all scoring over 22 points). Against Denver, we definitely saw a lot of Agbaji, Kris Dunn, Luka Samanic (who the team just signed to a deal), and Simone Fontecchio. Dunn is a familiar name but he has bounced around the league. Once a lottery pick by the Wolves, he is a good passer and has a knack of stealing the ball. He was once second in the league in steals (averaged 2.0 per steals in 2019-20).

And like I said before, no matter who’s on the court for the Jazz, they could score in bunches. Utah scored 130, 139, and 133 against the Lakers in three games. So if the Lakers are going to take this seriously, they should attempt to put the clamps on them.

The injury report has D’Angelo Russell on probable while LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Dennis Schröder are questionable. I think they’re going to play or, at the very least, play a half. Still, if the Lakers want a chance at avoiding the play-in altogether, they should treat this like a playoff game. Even if it is against a second-string Jazz team. I mean, they had a hard time focusing against a second-string Suns team. At least, use this as some sort of warm-up before they get into the “real thing.”

There is still a lot to unpack here. Everything will be finalized once these games are over. But like I said, at least, the Lakers have a shot at the championship (whether you think it’s a long shot or a legit shot is up to you). It’s definitely much better than being eliminated at season’s end with a paltry 33 wins.

Hopefully, the Lakers can finish this regular season… on a good note.

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