NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers Better Hope to Stay in 3rd Place

Sammy SucuSenior Analyst IApril 14, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol #16 and Metta World Peace #15 leave the court after losing to the Houston Rockets 112-107 at Staples Center on April 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers will greatly suffer if they fall to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. 

The NBA's regular season is coming to a close, and some teams are fighting to make the playoffs while other teams are fighting for seed positioning. The Lakers are one team that desperately needs to keep playing as hard as possible and either stay put at the third spot or take over the second. 

If the regular season ended today, the Lakers would play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Last year this was a problem, but this year, it will be a cake walk. The Lakers have played the Mavericks three times this season and won every single time. 

The Mavericks could earn the fifth seed in the West, but they need to pass to the Memphis Grizzlies. This is very possible. However, the rest of the Grizzlies' schedule is much more simple than the Mavericks'.

Memphis faces New Orleans twice, Cleveland, Charlotte, Utah, Minnesota, Portland and Orlando. The Grizzlies should come out of that stretch with at least six wins. 

Dallas has already played two more games, and they have a tougher schedule to close.

The rest of their schedule is tough because they face the Lakers, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Golden State and Utah. It is possible that the Mavericks pass the Grizzlies, but it is not likely.

The Lakers will have a much easier time facing the Mavericks or the Rockets, who also have a chance at the sixth seed. Houston is one-and-a-half games behind the Mavericks, and could catch up to them. 

What the Lakers don't want to do is face the Grizzlies or the Los Angeles Clippers, who are currently the fourth seed but are one-and-a-half games behind third and only one game ahead of Memphis. The Lakers have a winning record against both teams this season, but both teams give the Lake Show a very hard time. 

The Clippers seem to be putting it together lately, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. The Grizzlies seem to finally be healthy and ready to make some noise in the playoffs.

Last season, Memphis shocked the world when they defeated the first-place San Antonio Spurs in the first-round of the playoffs. Don't be surprised if Memphis shocks another team this year. 

The Lakers could easily be that team because of how inconsistent they have looked. 

One game the Lakers look like the best team in the NBA, and in another they look like the Bobcats. That type of inconsistency will kill them in the playoffs, especially against the Grizzlies or Clippers. 

Regardless of who they face, the Lakers will likely get past the first round. It would be much more beneficial for them to play the Mavericks or the Rockets, because they would likely win the series in four to five games. If the Lakers face the Grizzlies or Clippers, there may be one exciting Game 7 in the first round for the Lake Show. 

The other reason why the Lakers should stay put that third is because of who they would play in the second round. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13:  Kobe Bryant #24 (L) of the Los Angeles Lakers, in street clothes due to an injury, talks to Andrew Bynum #17 duing the game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on April 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If Kobe Bryant and company were the fourth seed and have to battle with the Clippers or Grizzlies in the first round, they would then move on to an even tougher opponent—the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder have defeated the Lakers in the two matches they played this season. The Lakers had a tough time with the team in the regular season, and there is no reason to believe it would get easier in the playoffs.

The Lakers will eventually have to face the Thunder in the playoffs, because Oklahoma is likely going to breeze by the rest of the Western Conference. However, the Lakers should postpone that meeting to the latest possible time. 

In the second round, L.A. would likely play the Spurs. This would be ideal for the older Lakers, who want to save as much energy as possible for the young and quick Thunder. The Lakers have only played the Spurs once this season, and they defeated San Antonio in decisive fashion without their best player, Bryant.

This does not mean the Spurs will be a walk in the park for the Lakers, but they will be much easier to handle than the Thunder in the second round. 

Even if the Lakers take the second seed in the West, it would not make much of a difference. They would likely play an easier opponent at the seventh seed, then face the Spurs again in the second round. 

The Lakers need to conserve as much energy as possible in the playoffs, and to do that they need to play their best basketball for the next two weeks. If the Lakers end up in the fourth seed, they will once again be knocked out in the second round of the playoffs. 


Sammy Sucu is a Featured Columnist for the WWE. Sammy also writes for the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Lakers. You can also follow him on Twitter.