Before taking the court against the Houston Rockets (45-36) on Wednesday night, the Lakers (44-37) clinched a playoff berth when the Grizzlies (56-26) defeated the Utah Jazz (43-39) in Memphis, 86-70.
Power forward Zach Randolph had 25 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to the victory, which eliminated the Jazz from postseason contention. Center Al Jefferson had 22 points and 16 rebounds to lead Utah.
Win or lose against the Rockets, the Lakers have qualified for the postseason. The remaining question becomes final seeding and opponent.
If the Lakers defeat the Rockets, they will finish tied with Houston at 45-37. With the two teams splitting the season series, the Lakers would climb to the seventh seed by virtue of a stronger conference record and face the San Antonio Spurs.
If the Lakers lose, they’ll finish in eighth place in the West and draw a first-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs would be the more favorable matchup given their recent spate of injuries to Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw.
The Thunder are healthier, younger and more athletic.
It’s unlikely the Lakers will be favored over either team, but Utah’s loss guarantees the Lakers a chance to continue their season for at least another couple of weeks.