The Los Angeles Lakers finished with a 43-39 record as the seventh-seed in the Western Conference. As a result, the Lakers will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA Play-In Tournament with a chance to advance to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
While Los Angeles didn’t ultimately climb into the top-six in the Western Conference as fans had hoped for, the team was able to avoid being a ninth or tenth seed in the play-in. That is huge, as the seventh and eighth seeds get two shots at making the playoffs whereas the ninth and tenth seeds have to win back-to-back games to get in.
That almost was not the case for the purple and gold, though. There absolutely was a situation in which the team could have been a ninth or tenth seed in the West and if it was not for the team’s unsung hero, they would have been faced with that reality in the play-in.
Said unsung hero is not even in Los Angeles anymore. In fact, he is contracted on a two-way deal with the Timberwolves. If it was not for Matt Ryan, the Lakers wouldn’t even be playing Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Matt Ryan is the unsung hero that saved the Lakers’ season.
This was an awesome moment back in November that saw the former DoorDash delivery driver hit the biggest shot of his entire life. At the time, it seemed like it was a feel-good win that would hopefully propel the Lakers into playing better as they headed into the holiday season.
Nobody back then probably realized how big of an impact this one shot would have on the final playoff seeding in the Western Conference.
If Ryan clanks this corner three off the back iron then the Lakers lose this game to the New Orleans Pelicans. If we assume everything else stays the same, Los Angeles would have finished with a 42-40 record and New Orleans would have usurped the Lakers with a 43-39 record.
This would give LA the same record as the Timberwolves. Minnesota would have owned the tiebreaker as they are 2-1 against the Lake Show this season. Thus, Los Angeles and New Orleans would have swapped places in the standings.
The Lakers would be preparing for a matchup against Oklahoma City knowing that they would have to win two games in a row to get to the playoffs. New Orleans would be prepping for Minnesota, who they just played in the last game of the regular season.
One shocking corner three from someone who did not last another month on the team is the reason why the Lakers have the comfort of being the seventh seed. Every game matters.