Posted by Andrew Shi
It's now after All-Star weekend and the playoffs will be upon us soon enough. The demanding question, as it has been for the past few months is: Will the Lakers make the playoffs? They just ended a three game win streak, having beat the Celtics, Trailblazers and Mavericks, and they're 11-5 in the past 16 games. They're three games behind the eighth seed team in the West, the Houston Rockets and three and a half behind the seventh place Utah Jazz.
It is well within the realm of possibilities that the Lakers seize a playoff seed, and usurping the Jazz for seventh place seems a reasonable task. It has taken a while for the team to get into their rhythm, and it's not yet certain if they are yet in it, but Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are both finally putting up the numbers they were brought on board for.
The Lakers are now fourth in rebounds and sixth in points scored --although eighth in points allowed. The Rockets are second in scoring but their young front court hardly compares to that of the Lakers. Utah is 11th in points scored and 16th in rebounds, but the difference in average rebounds is only three. While they have a front court that matches up well with the Lakers, their backcourt falls way short.
If the Lakers are to make the playoffs, the team most likely to leave is the Rockets. Despite having impressive talent, like many young teams they need a year or two before they gain the experience and chemistry to seriously compete in the off season, although the Jazz could just as easily exit early. Their play of late has been slightly inconsistent, and they too had a slow start in season. However, the Lakers have more to consider than just beating the Rockets or Jazz out for a slot.
Both Portland and Dallas are hanging on to the playoff picture, one and two games behind the Lakers, and four and five behind the rockets, respectively. With Dirk Nowitski back in the picture, starting again, and finally putting up his usual all-star numbers, the Mavericks are making a threatening move for a seed. The Trailblazers for much of the season had held a playoff seed, or hovered at ninth, but a recent seven game slide has left them at 10th.
The West this year is stuffed with highly competitive teams. If the Lakers were in the East they would hold the eighth seed. There are still about 30 games left in the season, and anything could happen. It would come with no surprise if the Lakers made the offseason and either the Rockets or Jazz, or both, exited early.
The next question is: How far will the Lakers make it? Hopefully for them, Pau returns from his injury sooner than later.