Lakers newsletter: The playoff path is grim, but the Lakers might catch a break

The Lakers' LeBron James raises his arms and disputes a call during a loss to the Warriors Tuesday
The Lakers’ LeBron James disputes a call during a loss to the Golden State Warriors at Arena Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to this week’s Lakers newsletter, I’m Dan Woike, beat writer for the L.A. Times. This is my weekly chance to check in directly with you, the reader, and talk some basketball. Sorry for never asking how YOU are doing. Hope you’re well.

Anyways, I wish I had some definitive news, but alas, the Western Conference playoff race has made that impossible.


Here’s the situation:

Who is going where?

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Lakers are one of five teams in the West whose fate is completely up in the air because of the possibility of being forced into the play-in tournament.

A quick reminder: The seventh- through 10th-place teams compete in a mini-tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference. No. 7 hosts No. 8, and the winner becomes the seventh seed. No. 9 hosts No. 10, with the winner advancing to play the loser of No. 7 versus No. 8 on the road — to be the No. 8 seed.

If that road from the 10 spot sounds rough, that’s because it is. A 10th-place team never has advanced to the playoffs in the current format. Last season both Chicago and Oklahoma City staved off elimination as No. 10 seeds before losing.

So where do things stand?

Well, the Lakers (45-35) are in ninth place but lost a big game Tuesday night to 10th-place Golden State (44-35), the Warriors grabbing the head-to-head tiebreaker. Now, if both the Lakers and the Warriors win out, Golden State will finish ahead of them.

The Warriors play in Portland on Thursday before hosting New Orleans on Friday and Utah on Sunday. According to, it’s the easiest remaining schedule based on winning percentage in the West. One Warriors loss combined with two Lakers wins would keep the Lakers from finishing behind Golden State.

All is not completely lost. The Suns’ loss to the Clippers on Tuesday opens the door for seventh-place Phoenix (46-33) to drop. The Suns would need to lose two of their last three games — Wednesday at the Clippers, Friday at Sacramento and Sunday at Minnesota (which could feature the return of Karl-Anthony Towns).

The eighth-place Kings (45-34) also helped out the Lakers on Tuesday, blowing a 20-point lead in Oklahoma City. Sacramento, which is without its two best shooting guards in Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, plays Thursday against New Orleans and Friday against Phoenix before finishing at home against Portland on Sunday. If the Kings win twice, they’re assured a spot ahead of the Lakers. If the Lakers win out and Sacramento drops two of those games, the Lakers would inch ahead of them.


Another path goes through New Orleans, a team the Lakers need to beat Sunday in all of these scenarios. If the Pelicans, who sit in the sixth spot at 47-32, lose to both the Kings on Thursday and the Warriors on Friday, the Lakers will finish ahead of them with a win Sunday.

Bottom line, I have no idea when the Lakers are going to play, who they’re going to play, where they’re going to play or who is going to watch my kids.


Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Times Lakers Show

After a hiatus, we’ll be back next week to preview the play-in/playoffs — shoot us your questions by responding to this email.

Song of the Week

“Prep-School Gangsters” by Vampire Weekend

The excellent rock critic Steven Hyden argued in favor of Vampire Weekend being an all-time great by passing “The Five Albums Test” — a metric that says to be one of the best bands ever, you need to release five consecutive great albums. Well, the new Vampire Weekend, like all Vampire Weekend albums, is terrific and this song is one of my early favorites (stay for the 20-second outro).

In case you missed it

Plaschke: Lakers final stretch filled with headache, nausea and dimming hopes

Lakers clinging to ninth place in West after loss to Warriors

Pleasing English teachers, pesky typos on Lakers’ Kobe Bryant statue are corrected


Anthony Davis suffers another eye injury as Lakers drop important game to Minnesota

Will Anthony Davis wear goggles to protect eyes? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started Lakers tradition

Lakers move into eighth place with victory over the Cavaliers

Magic Johnson raves about Michael Cooper making it into Hall of Fame

Lakers look to keep momentum going into last five games of regular season

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!