The Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon marked the defending NBA champions’ fifth straight loss and moved them into a tie, at 55-25, with the Dallas Mavericks for second place in the Western Conference. Though the San Antonio Spurs already put first place out of reach, the rest of the schedule ought to matter to L.A., as homecourt advantage against the rest of the West’s playoff bracket is at stake.
Currently, the Lakers own the tiebreaker over Dallas because they are division champs and the Mavericks, well behind San Antonio, is not. But it’s still possible for Dallas, and even fourth-place Oklahoma City, to pass the Lakers in the standings outright.
For Dallas, passing L.A. would require winning its final two games and the Lakers dropping at least once. Further, if the Lakers lose their remaining two games, the Mavericks win at least once, and the Thunder win their final two games, the Lakers would slip to fourth out West.
Not so long ago, the Lakers had a chance to steal first place from the then-slumping Spurs. But now, they’re the juggernaut in danger of needlessly complicating its path to the championship by losing grip on a high playoff seed.