Why NBA Playoffs Will Be Slam Dunk If Lakers Win 75% of Last 22 Games

6 min readFeb 25


The Lakers making the playoffs seems like a pipe dream with 7 teams standing between them and a top-6 finish and guaranteed playoff seed in the west but it’s actually a slam dunk if they can win 75% of their games.

Right now, the Lakers are in 13th place, 1.5 games out of 10th place and the Play-In Tournament and 3.5 games out of 6th place and guaranteed playoff spot but fortunately have 13 games against 8 of the 9 teams above them.
Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham says the team does not want to participate in the Play-In Tournament and is focused on winning a top-6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs by winning 16 of 23 or 70% of the games left.

When you look at how many teams are between the #13 Lakers and the #6 seed in the playoffs, it’s easy to wonder if it’s simply just too late for Los Angeles to make a serious run at getting into the top-6 teams in the West.
Earning 7th or 8th place in the West to get two shots at winning a playoff spot in the Play-In Tournament is certainly a more realistic and achievable goal for the Lakers to have with so far to climb and just 22 games to do it.

But this season has seen a plague of parity the likes of which the Western Conference of the NBA has not seen for years and the Lakers are fortunate that this situation has given them an unexpected chance to win a ring.

Current Western Conference Standings and Records

With Denver, Memphis, and Sacramento holding the top three spots in the West standings, the battle for the remaining three guaranteed playoff spots and the four available spots in the Play-In Tournament will be ferocious.

Right now, the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks have solid but small leads on the #4, #5, and #6 seeds. All three teams have winning records for the season as well as for the last 10 games they played.
If the Lakers want to avoid the Play-In Tournament, they’re going to need to climb over seven teams including one of the Suns, Clippers, and Mavs to jump from 13th to 6th seed, a formidable challenge with just 22 games left.

Frankly, the more realistic target for the Los Angeles Lakers is to finish in 7th or 8th place so they would get two shots at winning a Play-In game to secure the favorable #7 or #8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Fortunately for the Lakers, most of the teams with whom they would be competing in the Play-In Tournament do not have winning records for the season or for their last 10 games, which gives Los Angeles an advantage.

Here are current Western Conference standings and win-loss records for the 10 teams separated by 3.5 games between 4th place and 13th place plus the teams’ win % last 10 games and games still remaining against Lakers:

#4 PHX 33–28, 70%, 2 games
#5 LAC 33–29, 50%, 1 game
#6 DAL 32–29, 60%, 2 games

#7 MIN 31–31, 40%, 2 games
#8 NOP 30–30, 40%, 1 game
#9 GSW 30–30, 40%, 1 game
#10 UTA 30–31, 50%, 2 games

#11 OKC 28–31, 40%, 2 games
#12 POR 28–31, 50%, 0 games
#13 LAL 28–32, 50%

Projected Western Conference Standings and Records

If the Lakers want to avoid the Play-In Tournament and enter the playoffs as the #6 team in the West, they’re going to have to do it by stealing the Clippers’ top-6 playoff spot and kicking them down to the Play-In Tourney.

The unprecedented parity that’s infected the Western Conference of the NBA shows no signs of breaking with 15 teams competing for 6 guaranteed playoff spots and 4 postseason spots in the new Play-In Tournament.
The bad news is the Lakers have to climb over 7 teams just to avoid the Play-In Tournament. The good news is they still have 10 games against the seven teams directly above them in the Western Conference standings.

One way to project the win-loss records for the ten teams fighting for the remaining 7 postseason spots is to apply their win % last 10 games to the games remaining on their schedules to project their final win-loss records.
That would give the Lakers 11 wins and a 39–43 record, which probably means missing the Play-In. Winning 75% or 17 games, on the other hand, would elevate the Lakers’ projected win-loss record to 45–37 and #5 seed.

Here are projected Western Conference standings and win-loss records if team’s win % last 10 days is applied to the remaining games. For Lakers, we used 75%, their record since deadline, rather than 50% win % last 10 days:

#4 PHX 48–34
#5 LAL 45–37
#6 DAL 45–37

#7 LAC 43–39
#8 UTA 41–41
#9 POR 40–42
#10 MIN 39–43

#11 NOP 39–43
#12 GSW 39–43
#13 OKC 37–45

Why Every Remaining Lakers Game Is ‘Must Win’ Game

While winning 75% or 17 of their remaining 23 games would essentially guarantee the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs, their margin for error is razor slim with every single remaining game being a ‘must win’ game.

Another way of showing how thin the Lakers chances of making the playoff are is to consider how many losses would eliminate them from top-6 seed, 7th or 8th in the Play-In Tournament, or 9th or 10th in Play-In Tournament.
If Lakers lose 7 games, they probably aren’t making playoffs as top-6 team. If they lose 9 games, they probably aren’t making 7th or 8th in the Play-In Tournament. If they lose 11 games, they’re at risk of missing the playoffs.

That means the Lakers have to view every single one of the 22 remaining games on their schedules as ‘must win’ games. They need to come out and dominate every game from the start and not allow teams to hang around.
The Lakers don’t have any margin for error to suffer a loss because they allowed an opponent to hang around and then heroically pull out a win with a great play by their star player or a blown call by one of the refs.

The Lakers’ last two dominating wins were perfect templates for what they need to do every single game. Every Laker has to come out and play like every game is the most important regular season game of their careers.

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Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.