Thanks to a solid stretch of play since the All-Star break and the near total collapse of the Utah Jazz, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers look like they're a pretty safe bet to make the playoffs. Though that's a notable accomplishment in itself considering how bleak L.A.'s postseason hopes looked just a few weeks ago, the toughest task is still ahead.
Because virtually every current seed in the Western Conference is subject to change, the Lakers don't yet know whom they'll be facing in a first-round series. They do know one thing, though: Whichever matchup they draw, it'll be a difficult one.
If LAL continues recent pace & makes the playoffs as a 6, 7 or 8, they could face any one of 5 teams (SAS, OKC, MEM, LAC, DEN).— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 22, 2013
Look, every one of the five teams L.A. could potentially run up against in the postseason is a dangerous opponent. Based on their overall records, they're all technically better teams than the Lakers are. But some matchups present more manageable challenges for L.A., while others look pretty darn hopeless.
Here's how the Lakers' potential first-round opponents stack up.