Lakers' biggest hurdle in standings suffers huge loss as season winds down

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers
Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers currently find themselves in the exact same situation the team has been in two of the last three seasons: entrenched in the Play-In Tournament. Los Angeles is currently the ninth seed in the Western Conference with a 2.5-game cushion between the eighth seed and the 10th seed.

The Lakers may not care about seeding right now but climbing up the standings is absolutely a necessity for the Lake Show. Even if Los Angeles is still in the play-in, there is a huge benefit in at least getting to the eighth seed as it would give the Lakers two chances to win one game to make the playoffs.

If the Lakers stay as the ninth seed then the team has to win back-to-back do-or-die games just to get into the playoffs. With how the team has played this season, it is hard to be confident in winning two games in a row with such high stakes.

The Lakers need all the help they can get to climb out of the ninth seed and after struggling with bad injury luck all season, another Western Conference play-in team is now dealing with the same bad luck. Sacramento's Kevin Huerter suffered a dislocated shoulder late last week and according to NBA reporter Grant Afesth, he may be out for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Kevin Huerter injury makes it tough for Kings to hold off Lakers for eighth seed

Injuries are never a good thing in sports and they should never be outright celebrated by other fans. That being said, it is impossible to deny the fact that this has a negative impact on the Kings, and in turn, opens the door for the Lakers to potentially climb.

Sacramento has built up a nice cushion over the purple and gold with a 2.5-game lead and not much basketball left to play. The Kings also swept the Lakers in the regular-season series this year and owns the tiebreaker in the case that the two teams finish with the same record.

Thus, the Lakers have to not just finish with the same record as the Kings but need to usurp them entirely. That is a tall order for the purple and gold but it is somewhat more likely with the Kings being one key rotation player short to end the season.

It also is worth mentioning that the Kings have the third-toughest remaining strength of schedule while the Lakers have the 10th-easiest. It is not just the Kings who have to go through a late-season gauntlet, either. The Phoenix Suns, who are tied with the Kings in the standings, have the toughest remaining strength of schedule.

It is not going to come easy, and the Lakers have to take care of their own business to climb in the standings, but the door is at least creeping open for the team to make a huge leap in the standings late in the season.