Ahead of arguably the biggest game of their season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said he's not worried about his team being forced to battle through the NBA's postseason play-in tournament.
The Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers enter Friday's matchup tied for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. Teams that finish seventh through 10th place will enter the play-in tournament and, depending on seeding, would have to win one or two games to secure a berth in the first round of the playoffs.
Los Angeles enters the content with four losses in its last five games and coming off a 118-94 drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Making matters even tougher for the defending champs Friday is the absence of LeBron James and Talen Horton-Tucker. Anthony Davis will attempt to keep the Lakers afloat less than 24 hours after he exited the game with back spasms in the first half. L.A. held the forward out of action for the remainder of the game.
Portland is on the opposite trajectory.
Winners in four of their last five, the Blazers can clinch a season series victory over the Lakers, giving the club a crucial tiebreaker in the standings.
The play-in begins May 18. Depending on the outcome of Friday's action, the reigning champions may be among those fighting to advance out of it.
That doesn't worry Vogel much, but like most teams, he'd prefer to avoid it—and the extra high-stress games—by winning out and advancing straight to the first round.