The Golden State Warriors could find themselves in a familiar but unlikely scenario in a few weeks — facing a playoff showdown against LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers, once a Western Conference powerhouse, fell into the No. 7 spot with a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. The Lakers have struggled with the injured James out of the lineup, and his expected return may not be enough to climb his team out of the league’s new four-team play-in bracket. As it stands, the Lakers would face the Warriors in a one-game playoff to determine the seventh seed, with the loser going to play for their playoff lives in another game that would determine the eighth.
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Lakers ‘Spiraling out of Control’
As Ali Thanwalla of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, the Lakers are now one game out of the sixth spot and lost the tie-breaker to the Blazers after Friday’s contest. The team once seen as the powerhouse of the conference now hovers on the edge of the playoff race thanks to a series of injuries, Thanwalla wrote.
“The Lakers are spiraling out of control with LeBron James nursing ankle soreness, Dennis Schroder in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, and Anthony Davis battling through several injuries.”
Though the Lakers could still battle back into the No. 6 spot, if they stay within the play-in tournament then a matchup against the Warriors could loom. The Lakers hold a three-game lead over Golden State, and the Warriors have a half-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth spot.
A Warriors-Lakers play-in game is gaining steam after LA’s loss in Portland tonight https://t.co/iVdkYD9HZm pic.twitter.com/ELxTCVbyLn
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 8, 2021
The Lakers could have a chance to advance back out of the bracket, however. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin noted, the Lakers have five games remaining against teams with a combined winning percentage of .485, while the Blazers play opponents with a .566 winning percentage. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has remained confident, saying after Friday’s loss that he was “unafraid of the play-in tournament with this team.”
Warriors Not Looking Ahead
The play-in bracket is familiar territory for Golden State, which has hovered between the seventh and tenth seeds for the majority of the season. But with a little more than a week remaining in the season, head coach Steve Kerr said they’re not putting too much thought into who they may face in the bracket.
With five games to go, the Lakers are currently set to play the Warriors in the play-in tournament 👀 pic.twitter.com/jnV3etuGxj
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 8, 2021
“[There’s] still a lot that can happen. If we take care of business, we can put ourselves in the best possible spot, which would be seventh or eighth — more likely eighth, given where the seventh team is right not,” he said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “It would take almost a miracle to get there. But that’s the whole focus, is getting to a spot where we’d have to only win one out of two as opposed to two out of two. That’s a pretty big deal, and that’s our focus, much more so than matchups.”
If the standings hold, then the Warriors and Steph Curry would be headed for another showdown with James, who they met four consecutive times in the NBA Finals.
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