The regular season ends in two days. Here are the standings in the West going into Friday.
As far as the Lakers’ positioning goes, they have to win both games for a chance to avoid the play-in. They have to hope that either the Clippers or the Warriors (or both!) falter in their last couple of games. The Clippers have a back-to-back this coming weekend against the Blazers (at home) and Suns (on the road). The Warriors have the Kings on Friday night and then the Blazers on Sunday. They’re both on the road.
Honestly, the Lakers’ best hope is for the Dubs to mess up against Sacramento (who still have a chance at the 2nd seed). Although we all know that the Warriors have been an atrocious road team all season.
The Lakers do have the Suns at home on Friday night. Phoenix is coming off a win against the Nuggets on Thursday night. More importantly for Phoenix, they have clinched the #4 seed and guaranteed home court against their first round opponents (which still has a chance to be the Lakers).
With nothing to play for, the Suns have decided to rest all their stars (which would be Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton). The Lakers, in the meantime, have LeBron James and Anthony Davis at questionable while D’Angelo Russell is probable. At the very least, I don’t expect LeBron to sit because they do still have something to play for.
The Suns won’t have as much size with their stars sitting. They’re going to depend on a lot of perimeter shooting from Cameron Payne, Terrence Ross, Landry Shamet, and Damion Lee. Torrey Craig can also supplement some shooting in addition to his defense. The Suns will have to rely on Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale for interior presence. If the Suns’ second unit can get on fire from the perimeter, they have a chance.
The Lakers are 1-2 against the Suns this season. They did beat Phoenix on March 22nd (LeBron was still out while Phoenix didn’t have Durant and Ayton). Devin Booker caught fire in the second half but he won’t be in Friday’s game. The Lakers got to the line a ton and that definitely helped them. They also had three starters that scored 25 or more (Davis, D’Angelo, Austin Reaves). If both stars sit out for Friday then it’s up to Russell, Reaves, and Dennis Schröder to outhustle this ragtag bunch from Phoenix.
It’s still a treacherous game for the Lakers because it’s dangerous to go against a team with literally nothing to lose. The Suns are going to be the 4th seed no matter what. The Lakers are trying to avoid the play-in.
In the Lakers’ case, they should act like they want that playoff spot and take care of business early. Like I said, you just never know what’s going to happen in the NBA. Or in sports, really.