Game-by-Game Predictions for Lakers and Jazz Final Three Games
At 43-37, the Lakers have a one-game lead over the Jazz and therefore control their own destiny. If the Purple and Gold win their final two games, they're in.
However, with Utah owning a 2-1 record over Los Angeles this season, a tie in overall records would mean the Jazz getting the eighth spot and Lakers getting an early summer.
Looking at the possibilities, it's not too hard to see how these final two games will unfold. If the Lakers go 2-0, they're in. If the Jazz go 2-0, they need the Lakers to lose at least one game in order to get into the playoffs.
Let's take a look at each team's remaining games and shake out the most likely scenario for each one.
April 14: Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
Lakers Record Against Spurs: 0-2
Last Game: Spurs 108, Lakers 105 (1/9)
Subplot: "Injured" Spurs players
While I wouldn't go as far as to say that the San Antonio Spurs are in full-on tank mode in order to slip down to the second seed in the Western Conference, but it seems that they don't care about securing the top overall spot out West as much as the Oklahoma City Thunder do.
Los Angeles has almost no chance against San Antonio if the Spurs are playing at full strength, but that seems unlikely. With Parker potentially spending the rest of the regular season on the bench alongside Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili, the Lakers should have a very good chance at a win in this one.
Don't forget, this is the front end of a back-to-back for San Antonio, so Gregg Popovich might be conservative with his starters' minutes, a practice we have grown accustomed to over the years.
I'd put my money on a depleted Spurs team showing up in Los Angeles and the Lakers barely edging their opponent in a close victory.
Result: Lakers win
April 15: Utah Jazz @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Jazz Record Against Timberwolves: 3-0
Last Game: Jazz 107, Timberwolves 100 (4/11)
Subplot: Three days rest for the Jazz
While the Minnesota Timberwolves have a game against the Phoenix Suns before their second game against Utah, the Jazz will be coming in with three days rest.
Utah is 4-1 after at least three days rest this season, and coming off such a grueling past few weeks, it's going to be a welcomed time off before they hit the road for their last two games.
Considering the Timberwolves' season was marred by injury and disappointment, it's hard to imagine Minnesota's fans generating an intimidating atmosphere at the Target Center.
With their hot streak presumably still intact, a letdown against Minnesota would be a big surprise for the Jazz.
Result: Jazz win
April 17: Utah Jazz @ Memphis Grizzlies
Jazz Record Against Memphis: 1-2
Last Game: Jazz 90, Grizzlies 84 (3/16)
Subplot: Grizzlies' motivation
The Memphis Grizzlies seem destined to lock up the fifth seed in the Western Conference, though they still have a shot at leaping up to the third seed should Denver falter. They're tied with the Nuggets in the loss column, and they have three games left before their season finale against the Jazz.
Once we get to this game, it's likely that we will know where the Grizzlies land in the playoff seeding. But if things are still up in the air for Memphis, that could spell doom for the Jazz.
Utah won its most recent matchup against the Grizz—its only victory over Lionel Hollins' squad all season long. That said, the Jazz just don't have the talent to match up with Memphis from top to bottom.
Not only that, but the Grizzlies' big men have the size and strength to oppose Utah's frontcourt, which has been the team's strength all season.
This one very much depends on what situation the Grizzlies are in on the final day of the season. Chances are, they won't be playing for anything.
Result: Jazz win
April 17: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets
Lakers Record Against Rockets: 1-2
Last Game: Houston 125, Lakers 112 (1/8)
Subplot: Rockets' motivation
When we get to this point, we will presumably see both Los Angeles and Utah with a 2-0 record in two of their last three games, which means the Rockets could have a chance to foil the Lakers' postseason hopes.
Los Angeles has plenty of motivation to give it their all for 48 minutes, but on the other side, it's hard to determine how badly Houston will want to play spoiler.
There's a possibility that the Rockets could take over the sixth seed in the Western Conference if Golden State gives them an opening, and there's even a chance that the Lakers could overtake them for the seven seed if Houston falters down the stretch.
So, in the likely case that both teams are playing for something, this one will come down to the wire.
Result: Lakers win and take the final playoff spot.