With the month of March underway, there are less than two months until the playoffs. Most teams have 20 games or less to play, so playoff seeding is getting tight, especially in the Western Conference. The good news is LA can still make it in, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers.

The Western Conference is always a bloodbath. This year is no different, with the current 5th through 8th seeds being separated by just 3 games. Here are the current standings as of March 3rd:

  1. Golden State Warriors, 44-19
  2. Denver Nuggets, 42-20
  3. Portland Trail Blazers, 39-24
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder, 38-24
  5. Houston Rockets, 37-25
  6. Utah Jazz, 36-26
  7. San Antonio Spurs, 35-29
  8. LA Clippers, 35-29
  9. Sacramento Kings, 31-31
  10. LA Lakers, 30-33
  11. Minnesota Timberwolves, 29-33
  12. New Orleans Pelicans, 29-36

With 20 games left to go, there is zero margin for error. The gap between Portland and the Clippers is tiny, with any loss sure to mix up the standings. Previously, it seemed that the Clippers were forfeiting the season with the Tobias Harris trade. They’ve managed to remain competitive, and are comfortably seated in the 8th seed.

The Kings were playing some great basketball before the all star break, but have seemed to slow down, losing their last 3 games in a row. The Lakers have struggled mightily, losing two in a row, including a loss to Phoenix on Saturday night.

Lebron has repeatedly called out his Laker squad for lack of effort, and with their recent losses that may very well be true. After the all star break, the Lakers were 28-29 when Lebron announced it was time to dial up the intensity for the race to the playoffs. In the six games since the all star break, the Lakers are 2-4. In those four losses, James has averaged 27.25 points, 8.75 rebounds, 12.25 assists, and 2 steals. It’s definitely shaping up for this to be the first year in a long time that James has missed the playoffs.

With the Lakers playing and looking deflated, the likelihood of them shaping up in the next 19 games is slim. They’re already 4 games behind the 8th place Clippers, and the remainder of their schedule contains 12 games against playoff teams, including two against the clippers and one against Sacramento. If the Lakers want any chance to play in the postseason, they need to win those three games.

More realistically, the Kings have a better chance of making the playoffs. They’re 3 games behind the Clippers, and only have 8 teams against playoff teams, most of those being against Eastern Conference foes. They did lose the season series to the Clippers, so the Kings must finish with a better record than the Clippers, not by tiebreaker.

That is entirely possible, but the Clippers are by far in the best position. Already sitting comfortably in the 8th seed, they just have to win most of their games to advance. The rest of the season, the Clippers play 8 playoff teams, with only 2 of those games played on the road. Assuming the team stays healthy, it’s very hard to see them get knocked out of the playoff race by Sacramento or the Lakers. I predict that we will see LA in the playoffs, but it won’t be the Lakers.

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