Playoff scenarios for Utah and L.A. on the final night of the NBA season
Tom Smart, Deseret News
For the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers, the season is now on the edge of a knife. Depending on what happens Wednesday, either team can have its season end, and only one of the two can make the playoffs.
Right now most of Utah and California is laser focused on the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings, which are:
7. Houston Rockets
8. Los Angeles Lakers
9. Utah Jazz
The Lakers are currently occupying the eighth and final playoff slot. Any team that finishes the season below eighth place will be watching the postseason from the couch.
The Utah Jazz (44-38) play the Memphis Grizzlies (55-26) on Wednesday night, and immediately following that game, the Los Angeles Lakers (44-37) play the Houston Rockets (45-36). Wednesday night will determine everything, but not just for two teams. Three teams will be affected by Wednesday.
There are four different possible scenarios that could surface on Thursday morning.
Scenario 1: Jazz beat Memphis, Lakers lose to Houston
If the Jazz beat the Grizzlies, and the Lakers lose to the Rockets, then the Jazz would snatch the 8th spot, the Rockets would remain in the 7th spot, and the Lakers would miss the playoffs.
Scenario 2: Jazz lose to Memphis, Lakers lose to Houston
If the Utah Jazz lose to the Grizzlies, and the Lakers lose to the Rockets, then the Rockets would remain in the 7th seed, the Lakers would still be the 8th seed, and the Jazz would miss the playoffs.
Scenario 3: Jazz beat Memphis, Lakers beat Houston
If the Jazz beat the Grizzlies, and the Lakers beat the Rockets, then the Lakers would steal the 7th seed, the Rockets would fall to the 8th slot, and the Jazz would miss the playoffs.
Scenario 4: Jazz lose to Memphis, Lakers beat Houston
If the Jazz lose to the Grizzlies, and the Lakers beat the Rockets, then the Lakers would capture the 7th seed, the Rockets would fall to the 8th seed, and the Jazz once again would miss the playoffs.
Whichever team secures the 8th spot will play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, and whichever team is in the 7th spot will start the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs.
In short, if the Jazz win their game in Memphis, they still need the Lakers to lose to Houston in order to make the playoffs. If the Jazz lose to Memphis, then both the Lakers and the Rockets make the playoffs no matter what happens. If the Lakers can beat Houston, then the Lakers capture the 7th seed, and the Rockets drop to the 8th seed.
The two games will be aired back-to-back on ESPN; this is without a doubt the most important night of the season for both these clubs.
The pressure is on, who will crack?
For NBA news and updates, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler
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