With a win over the Utah Jazz in their third seeding game of the NBA restart, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the first time since 2010.
That season they finished 57-25 and went on to defeat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals for the second of back-to-back titles under the late Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Back in March, the Lakers clinched their first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season.
“I thought we had a chance to be really good. I didn’t think it would take place as early on in the season as it did for us,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of the team’s rapid ascension.
“But we’re not there yet and right now our team is not even talking about the No. 1 seed or seeding. It’s really a stay-in-the moment mindset, focus on our habits and try to win each game that we play. I do think early on we were all surprised it took shape as quickly as it did.”
Of course, this year’s No. 1 seed in the West and NBA Playoffs as a whole present a unique set of circumstances. Having secured the top spot in the conference, the Lakers now face the prospect of potentially waiting to learn the identity of their first-round opponent.
The No. 8 seed in the Western Conference is currently occupied by the Memphis Grizzlies. However, the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs are only two games behind them. The Blazers are ahead of the Spurs by percentage points.
“We’re certainly aware of what’s happening with the eighth seed, and the seventh seed. We’re hoping to secure the No. 1 seed, and we can face any one of those teams competing for that. There could be a play-in,” Vogel said.
With the Lakers essentially a lock for the top spot in the West when the seeding games began, much of the focus has been on the playoffs. Vogel reiterated attention to detail remains the goal.
“In my mind they’re not really going to change, whether we clinch or not. We’ve got eight games to make sure our guys are back, used to playing big minutes in regular games, and the new guys are integrated at the right pace,” he said.
“We have to get enough time to look at combinations and certain lineups. That’s really the only goal of these games, to play around with those things, be as sharp as possible going into the playoffs. It will not change if and when we clinch.”
NBA Playoffs schedule
Potential play-in games will be held Aug. 15-16, with the first round of the playoffs due to tip off Aug. 17. The conference semifinals begin Aug. 31, and the conference finals start Sept. 15. The NBA Finals begin Sept. 30 and if there is a Game 7, that will be played Oct. 13.
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