The Los Angeles Lakers may be long gone from playoff contention but they still have a chance to affect the Western Conference playoff picture in Game 81.
The Lakers host Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on Sunday night. The Jazz sit in the fifth seed, one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers.
A win against the Lakers would put the Jazz just a half-game back of the Blazers to determine home-court advantage in what seems like an inevitable playoff series between the two Northwest Division rivals.
The Blazers play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday before finishing the season against the Lakers on Tuesday. The Jazz host the Nuggets on Tuesday before returning to Los Angeles on Wednesday to play the Clippers.
This means that the Lakers, with nothing much to gain or lose at this point in the 2018-19 NBA season, could directly impact this aspect of the playoffs.
Of course, head coach Luke Walton’s team remains very shorthanded. LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart have all been shut down with major injuries.
Some more unheralded Lakers, though, have made the most of their added playing time. Alex Caruso has probably played his way into an NBA contract over his recent eight-game stretch. Caruso is averaging 13.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while shooting 53.6% from the three-point linne over that timeframe.
JaVale McGee has also been regaining the form he had at the beginning of the season, when he looked like a force in the paint. He is averaging a double-double over his past eight games with 15.3 points and 12.1 rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers (36-44) vs. Utah Jazz (49-30)
6:30 P.M. PT, Apr. 7, 2019
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN), 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Lance Stephenson
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Alex Caruso, Moritz Wagner, Johnathan Williams
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen