The Los Angeles Lakers will to have to run the gauntlet in the postseason one way or another.
Injuries have really slowed down LeBron James and company this year. The final four teams left in the Orlando bubble last year have had to deal with the aftereffects of an incredibly short offseason. However, the Lakers are going to make the NBA Playoffs this year, either as a top-six seed or as one of the four middle-of-the-pack teams duking it out in the play-in tournament.
What two scenarios do the Lakers need to do their best to avoid as they gear up for the playoffs?
Los Angeles Lakers: 2 nightmare scenarios to avoid in title defense run
Lakers have to avoid the Denver Nuggets in first round
Through their first 67 games of the season, the Lakers are 37-30 on the year. This is good enough for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, which would put them in the play-in tournament. The Lakers are only one game back of the Portland Trail Blazers (38-29) for the No. 6 seed and only two games back of the Dallas Mavericks (39-28) for the No. 5 seed, so they can be top six.
Unfortunately, the Lakers will not be a top-four seed in this year’s NBA Playoffs. They are going to be at a home-court disadvantage in just about every round they play in. Assuming the Lakers can hit their stride in the final weeks of the regular season, they can crack the top six and avoid the play-in tournament all together. But should they do so, they have to avoid the Denver Nuggets.
Denver finds itself as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference at 44-23 through 67 games. Because they are five games back of the top-seeded Utah Jazz, their chances of getting a top-two seed this summer are incredibly slim. They could be as high as the No. 3 seed, depending on how the rest of the season shakes out for the LA Clippers, the other team lobbying for positioning here.
Of those two potential first-round opponents, the reason the Lakers would prefer to play the Clippers over the Nuggets is two-fold: One, the Lakers would not have to travel to play their little brother franchise in the same arena. And two, Denver plays at altitude, which could be a problem for the injury-plagued Lakers. Los Angeles faced Denver in the 2020 Western Conference Finals.