At the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets were the only team in the league with more favorable NBA championship odds than the Los Angeles Lakers. On the heels of an incredibly busy summer, the Lakers appeared primed to compete for a championship less than two years after winning it all in the Disney World bubble.
NBA betting sites have kept tabs on the playoff race all season long. The Lakers missing the postseason entirely was a laughable notion as recently as October, but it’s suddenly a very real possibility. In fact, the Lakers’ playoffs odds at BetOnline are actually plus-money, as of this writing.
Lakers Playoffs 2021
The 2020-21 playoffs didn’t go the way the Lakers, expected either. Los Angeles entered the playoffs with hopes of repeating as world champions, but those dreams were quickly dashed.
As a result of late-season injuries to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers had to settle for a spot in the play-in tournament last year, too. Los Angeles finished last season at 42-30, which was good for just the No. 7 spot in the West.
Fortunately, James was healthy enough to carry the Lakers to a victory over the Warriors in the 8-vs.-9 play-in matchup.
The Spurs’ narrow loss on Wednesday means the Lakers are back in the play-in game ahead of tonight’s showdown in Utah https://t.co/61S9RorBU2
— Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersSBN) March 31, 2022
The Lakers looked like a real threat as a lower seed entering the real playoffs, though they faced a daunting matchup with the second-seeded Suns in the first round. Phoenix lacked playoff experience, but Monty Williams’ side was one of the most-improved teams in basketball after the addition of Chris Paul.
The Suns finished last season at 51-21 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2010. LA actually took an early 2-1 series lead over Phoenix thanks to a couple of outstanding offensive games from Anthony Davis.
However, Davis injured his groin in the Lakers’ loss in Game 4, which would ultimately sideline him for most of the rest of the series. The Suns would go on to sweep the final three games, ending the Lakers’ playoff dreams earlier than many expected.
Will the Lakers Make the Play-In Tournament?
As you can see, the Lakers’ playoff odds aren’t looking too favorable these days. LA’s blowout loss in Dallas on Tuesday dropped LA to just 31-44 on the year, a season-low 13 games south of the .500 mark. The fact that the Lakers are even remotely close to a playoff spot despite such a dismal record tells you how terrible the bottom half of the West is this season.
James has already been ruled out of Thursday’s clash with the Jazz after injuring his ankle last weekend against New Orleans. There is still no timetable for LeBron’s return to the floor, which has the Lakers’ playoff odds looking extremely grim. Davis, who has missed the past few months with an ankle injury, is expected to return on Friday when the Lakers return home for a huge game against those same Pelicans.
LeBron averaged 34.3 points in March, the highest scoring average in a calendar month in his career ?
It's also the most PPG in a month by a Laker since Kobe in March 2007. pic.twitter.com/KUs1lGtKHR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 30, 2022
The Lakers’ final seven opponents of the season have a collective .564 winning percentage. That’s the third-toughest remaining schedule in the entire league. New Orleans (.491) and San Antonio (.520) both have easier run-ins than the Lakers do. Both of those teams have just six games to play, as well.
In addition to the back-to-back with Utah and New Orleans on Thursday and Friday, the Lakers still have two games left against Denver along with showdowns against Phoenix and Golden State looming. The easiest game left on LA’s schedule is a home clash against a tanking Oklahoma City outfit, though the Thunder have already beaten the lowly Lakers twice so far this season.
So, it’s easy to see why the Lakers’ playoff odds look so dicey entering the final week of the regular season.
Are the Lakers Out of the Playoffs?
Since the inception of the play-in format a couple of years ago, the NBA has defined making the playoffs as advancing beyond the play-in. So, the top-six finishers in each conference earn automatic playoff qualification. While the play-in tournament is literally postseason play, it doesn’t actually count as “making the playoffs.”
AD hasn’t suited up since injuring his ankle back on February 16th. For all of the talk about LA’s disappointing season, it’s worth noting the team has actually posted a winning record when completely healthy. With LeBron, Davis, and Russell Westbrook all in the lineup, Los Angeles is 11-10 with its three All-Stars in the lineup together.
As Anthony Davis — out since Feb. 16 with a foot sprain — progresses toward a game-time decision vs. New Orleans on Friday, LeBron James is hopeful to test out his ankle sprain and try to make a return to the lineup too, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 31, 2022
Of course, health is crucial to any team at this time of the year. Even if Davis does return, keeping him on the floor is the hard part. AD has appeared in just 37 games so far this season, and he hasn’t cracked 70 games played in any campaign since 2017-18 with the Pelicans.
This is one of the best two-way players in the sport, so it’s no surprise that the Lakers’ defense has absolutely suffered in the minutes Davis has been on the bench. Given the long +450 Lakers playoffs odds, Frank Vogel likely can’t afford to limit the minutes of either Davis or James upon their returns. You can question whether LeBron really has much interest in bothering with the play-in scenario, but Vogel is coaching for his job.
It’s also worth mentioning the possibility that the Lakers’ remaining schedule may not be quite as daunting as it looks. Nobody is catching the Suns for the top seed in the playoffs, so perhaps Phoenix will use that game to rest some of their regulars. Golden State and Denver may not go into those contests at full strength, either.
What’s The Best Bet?
The Lakers are the NBA’s flagship franchise. As a result, you can bet Adam Silver is highly interested in Los Angeles finding a way to sneak into the playoffs at all costs. This team has proven it’s not cut out to contend for a championship this season, but even qualifying for the playoffs would be something of a moral victory.
As a result, taking a shot on the Lakers’ +155 odds to make the play-in makes a lot of sense. From there, however, the Lakers’ playoffs odds look dim. LA would have to beat New Orleans in the 9-vs.-10 matchup before a showdown against either the Timberwolves or Clippers after that. If they are lucky enough to survive the play-in tournament, their reward will be a rematch against Phoenix in the first round of the real playoffs.