Lakers' Playoff Chances: Predicting the Final Outcome for Los Angeles

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Lakers' Playoff Chances: Predicting the Final Outcome for Los Angeles
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If the Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers must defeat the Houston Rockets at Staples Center to advance to the playoffs.

It all comes down to this.

The Jazz have a shot to beat the Grizzlies. They won their last meeting on March 16, 90-84, and they have bigs in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to compete with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the frontcourt. Gasol and Randolph combined for 30 points and 15 rebounds in the March meeting. Jefferson and Millsap combined for 27 points and 13 boards.

The Jazz have also won nine of their last 11 games, including a victory over the Golden State Warriors. Jefferson and veteran point guard Mo Williams have carried the team during that stretch.  

Memphis also lost a big home game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

I ultimately don't see the Jazz beating the Grizzlies in Memphis, though. For one, the Jazz are 13-27 on the road, while the Grizzlies are 31-9 at home. Also, the Jazz aren't the Clippers, and the Grizzlies have beaten the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets (twice) down the stretch.

But for the sake of making things more interesting, let's say the Jazz defeat the Grizzlies on Tuesday, thus forcing the Lakers to beat the Rockets.

That's where things get spicy.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Dwight Howard is the key for the Lakers against the Rockets.

Minus Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are obviously a completely different team. Houston also holds a 2-1 series advantage this season.

Given the Lakers' struggles on defense this season, it's no wonder why the Rockets have scored a combined 232 points in the last two contests (both wins). The Rockets shot 55 percent from the field in the 125-112 victory over Los Angeles on Jan. 8. That included going 11-of-25 from downtown, exemplifying the fact that they rank eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage.

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On the other hand, both of Houston's wins against the Lakers this season came at Toyota Center. That's important, considering Houston is 29-12 at home and 16-24 on the road this season. Los Angeles is 28-12 at home and 16-25 on the road.

Kobe or no Kobe, the Lakers should win this matchup. Don't forget that Dwight Howard posted 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in the 119-108 victory over the Rockets at Staples Center in November. Pau Gasol added 17 points.

In Los Angeles' first game without Bryant on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, Howard racked up 26 points, 17 boards, three blocks and two steals. Gasol added 16 boards and three blocks. Steve Blake came out of nowhere to drop 23 points. Antawn Jamison added 15 points off the bench.

The Lakers have enough to get by the Rockets on Wednesday. It won't matter if the Jazz beat the Grizzlies.

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