The Los Angeles Lakers will qualify for the 2013 NBA Playoffs, but if you were witness to their unbelievable loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday night, then you probably feel that reaching the postseason is an undeserved reward for this team.
Squandering a 16-point lead is bad under any circumstances; however, when the surrender comes at the hand of the 11th best team in the Eastern Conference, then some serious soul-searching may be in order.
The only problem is that Los Angeles' season and possibly the future of their franchise might hinge on what happens during the Lakers' final 12 games. And considering that five of those games are against certified postseason participants does not bode well for the purple and gold.
The Lakers have had enough trouble beating teams they are supposed to beat, but when it comes to beating teams they might face in the playoffs, their record is abysmal.
Los Angeles is currently 36-34 and only 12 of their 36 wins have come against teams who would qualify for the playoffs if it started today. Twenty-two of their 34 losses come against those same teams.
After consecutive losses to the Phoenix Suns and Wizards, the Lakers need to prove they are prepared for the postseason, but more importantly, they need to prove they can beat the teams they may face once they get there.
The Lakers have five games to prove they are up to the task, and the journey begins Monday night.
The Lakers begin a four-game road trip at Golden State on Monday night, and for the first time in a long while, the game actually has playoff implications.
The Warriors are currently three-and-a-half games in front of the Lakers for the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and this game is important for Los Angeles because it clinches the season series and gives them the tiebreaker if they both finish with the same record.
The Lakers can usually pencil a W in the win column when it comes to regular-season games with the Warriors, since you would have to go all the way back to April of 2011 to find a Golden State victory over the Lakers in the regular season.
Expect the Warriors to be extremely competitive and emotional in their final home game against the Lakers, and unfortunately for the LA, Stephen Curry doesn't expect the ankle injury he sustained in a win against Washington to be an issue.
When the Lakers face the Spurs in the next to last game of the regular season, their playoff seeding will likely already be decided, but it wouldn't hurt the Lakers to get a confidence-boosting win against the team they very well could be facing in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lakers are 0-2 against the Spurs so far this season, but the losses were by a combined five points, and the Lakers' final shot at beating the Spurs will take place at Staples Center.
Los Angeles has proven they can hang with San Antonio even though they were missing key contributors in both games, but can they finally beat the Spurs in the regular season and gain a little postseason momentum in the process?
The Lakers are three games behind the Houston Rockets for the seventh seed in the playoffs. The two teams split their first two games, each winning on their own home court.
The Lakers vs. Rockets battle in the regular-season finale has all the makings of an epic battle for control of the West's seventh seed, but to be honest, neither the Lakers or the Rockets can probably beat the Spurs or Oklahoma City in the first round.
The Lakers' final regular-season game against the Rockets could gain new meaning if the West's sixth seed were up for grabs, and ironically, the Lakers may ultimately have the final say on that as well.
The Lakers have no chance of catching the Clippers in the West standings, but is it possible that they could steal one win from their arena mates?
Talk about a role reversal. I'm not sure if the Clippers' 3-0 record over the Lakers this season is the start of a new trend, but I do know that a season sweep by the Clips is something to talk about.
A win in their final game against the Clippers may not be enough for the Lakers to stem the tidal wave that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have started in Los Angeles, but it may be enough to keep the seats in Staples Center purple for the moment.
California NBA fans have waited a long time for a meaningful postseason series between area teams, and while a late-season contest between the Lakers and Warriors doesn't have the same implications of battles between the Lakers and Sacramento in the last decade, there is serious drama nonetheless.
The Warriors' three-and-a-half game lead with 12 games left to play is a huge margin for the Lakers but it's not insurmountable, and the Lakers actually get Golden State twice in those final 12 games with the last one at home.
The Lakers begin their final push for the playoffs and the future of their franchise with a game on the road against Golden State, and isn't it interesting that their doom or glory could be decided by the same team at home?