Every West seed from Nos. 7-13 is active tonight.
Your Los Angeles Lakers continue to face an uphill battle to qualify for the Western Conference’s 2023 play-in tournament bracket.
At 30-33, LA currently sits as the No. 11 seed in the West, just one game behind the tenth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. The team will be missing its best player, All-Star small forward LeBron James, for at least the next two-and-a-half weeks, and is rumored to be gearing up for a worst-case scenario in which the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer will not return for the rest of the 2022-23 regular season.
Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell is about to miss his fourth straight game tonight with a right ankle sprain, though there’s a possibility he returns as soon as Sunday.
Anthony Davis is one weird landing away from missing three games, he absolutely cannot be counted upon down this home stretch — which is too bad, because he’s the Lakers’ most reliable “healthy” player.
Yours truly is pretty pessimistic that the Lakers will qualify for the play-in tournament should James miss more than three weeks. But here’s hoping I’m proven wrong.
The seventh-seeded Los Angeles Clippers (33-32), who have won zero games since adding ex-Laker Russell Westbrook, will face off against a better Sacramento Kings team (36-25) tonight. The eighth-seeded Timberwolves (32-32) are playing LA without one of their better players, Karl-Anthony Towns, but are still the odds-on favorites to win tonight due to LA’s absences. The 10th-seeded Pelicans (31-32) are playing the fifth-seeded Golden State Warriors (33-30) at Chase Center, which will likely be a lost for NOLA, as Golden State is 26-7 at home.
The 13th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (28-34) are hosting the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz (31-32), without All-Star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in what will most likely be a Jazz victory as OKC falls further into the lottery (as is probably its preference). Damian Lillard, languishing on the 12th-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (29-33), is playing a revived Atlanta Hawks team hoping to finish its season strong under midseason replacement head coach Quin Snyder. That game feels like something of a push, contingent on the shooting of its start guards.