Los Angeles Lakers on a Tight Western Conference Playoff Bubble
Posted on: February 20, 2023, 09:16h.
Last updated on: February 20, 2023, 01:19h.
The Los Angeles Lakers have only 23 more games remaining on the schedule to secure a spot in the postseason. Otherwise, they will bubble the Western Conference playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
With a 27-32 record, the Lakers are five games under .500 and currently in 13th place in the Western Conference standings. If the season ended today, the Lakers would miss the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.
The Play-In Tournament includes teams that finish in seventh place through tenth place in each conference. The Lakers are only two games behind the tenth-place Oklahoma City Thunder, and just three games behind the New Orleans Pelicans in seventh place.
However, the Lakers are still in the thick of the playoff hunt. But it’ll be a frantic fight in the last quarter of the season. Ten teams in the middle of the Western Conference standings are only separated by five games.
The Lakers acquired several new players after trading point guard Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade that also involved the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers added three new starters, including point guard D’Angelo Russell, shooting guard Malik Beasley, and power forward Jared Vanderbilt. They also acquired forward Rui Hachimura and center Mo Bomba before the trade deadline.
Betting the Lakers to Make the Playoffs
The Lakers bubbled the playoffs last season with a 33-49 record. They finished in 11th place in the Western Conference after the San Antonio Spurs made a big push in the final weeks of the season to finish in tenth place. The Spurs beat the Lakers to the last spot in the 2022 Western Conference Play-In Tournament.
According to a postseason prop bet from DraftKings, the Lakers are +160 odds to make the playoffs this season, and -200 odds to miss the playoffs.
The Lakers currently have a season-ending win total of 40.5 over/under wins. They would have to win 14 out of their final 23 games to reach 41 wins and finish the season at exactly .500.
FiveThirtyEight projects the Lakers will finish the regular season with a 40-42 record. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lakers have a 33% chance to qualify for the postseason, but only a 2% chance to win the championship.
The Lakers are +4000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, but only saw a slight bump at DraftKings after the trade deadline.
In Western Conference futures, the Lakers are +2000 odds to win the conference for a second time since the 2019-20 season.
The Lakers find themselves in last place in the Pacific Division, and trail the first-place Sacramento Kings (32-25) by six games. It’s overall a tight divisional race, with 1.5 games separating the surprise Kings, Los Angeles Clippers (33-28), and Phoenix Suns (32-28).
The Suns are the betting favorite to win the Pacific Division at -145 odds, followed by the Clippers (+240), and Kings (+475). The Golden State Warriors (+2800) and Lakers (+6000) are long shots to win their division.
LeBron: “Most Important Games of My Career”
Since LeBron James joined the Lakers in 2018-19, they won one NBA championship, but missed the postseason twice.
During his first season in L.A., the Lakers finished in tenth place in the Western Conference with a 37-45 record. The pandemic struck in the middle of James’ second season with the Lakers (52-19), but they got hot in the players-only NBA Bubble in Orlando and won the 2019-20 NBA championship.
The Lakers failed to defend their title in the 72-game, shortened season in 2020-21. They finished in seventh place overall with a 42-30 record, but were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round after losing Anthony Davis to an injury.
The Lakers face an uphill battle in their final 23 games this season if they want to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for a regular season,” James told the L.A. Times during All-Star Weekend. “I want to make a push to make the playoffs. I don’t want to see myself not being part of the postseason for two years straight. It’s just not part of my DNA.”
The Lakers have to figure out chemistry issues on the fly with five new players in the rotation. But James is determined to make it work.
“I’ve always been confident in any club that I’ve been on, once we got into the playoffs, that we can compete with anyone, and I feel no different now,” added James.
Lakers Face Favorable Schedule in Final 23 Games
The Lakers are in a fortunate spot with the sixth-easiest schedule in the NBA after the All-Star break. The combined winning percentage of their opponents is only .483.
The Lakers have six tough games against three Western Conference foes, with two meetings apiece versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers catch a break with multiple games against the worst team in the NBA. They meet the last-place Houston Rockets (13-45) in mid-March and play them again in early April. They also play the struggling Chicago Bulls (26-33) in a home/away, back-to-back series in late March.
The Lakers are trying to catch the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Thunder are trying to fend off the Lakers. Both bubble teams meet twice in March.
The Thunder have 25 games remaining, including difficult games against the top teams in the west. The Thunder square off against the Phoenix Suns four more times, and play six total games versus the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Kings (twice), and Clippers (twice).
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