Arguably the only thing the Los Angeles Lakers had to play for in their eight seeding games in the Orlando bubble was locking up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and they were able to do that with their win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
While there isn’t really home-court advantage to gain from, a number of Lakers players still took to social media after the win to celebrate clinching the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2010.
One benefit is that the Lakers will get to play the No. 8 seed, which a number of teams are battling for, as opposed to playing a tough, young Dallas Mavericks team, who likely finish seventh in the conference standings.
Now that the Lakers have clinched though, they can use their five remaining seeding games to get ready for the postseason. The Milwaukee Bucks, who will be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, sat out a majority of their top players in the second half of their loss against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel indicated he doesn’t yet have plans to follow such blueprint, even with a back-to-back on tap Wednesday and Thursday. “We haven’t made any final decisions on that. The plan right now is to play those guys,” Vogel said of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and his regulars.
“We still have a lot of areas to continue to improve before we feel like we’re ready to win games in the playoffs and to be at the level we want to reach. For us, we’re still in habit-building mode and continuing to just iron some things out that we’re not quite where we were when the hiatus hit. So our mindset is to continue to play our guys to get there.”
If Vogel does plan to ultimately sit James and Davis for any games or reduce their minutes, Thursday would be a likely setting.
Despite the Lakers being 2-1 so far in Orlando, they have struggled a bit offensively, so Vogel is right that they can use some more time together to continue to get back into the groove they were in before the league was shut down.
James stresses importance of health
While Vogel says he plans to continue playing James and Davis, the former recently emphasized the importance of staying healthy for the postseason.
“Health is wealth. That’s the No. 1 thing, and then chemistry comes with that on the floor,” James said. “Going into the postseason as healthy as we can be is what’s most important.
“Clinching the one seed is not much of a home-court advantage here, but we worked hard to be the No. 1 team in the West and possibly the No. 1 team in the league. Milwaukee is playing extremely well, but we got this far so we might as well try to figure it out and close it off the right way.”
It will be interesting to see if James potentially wanting to sit out a game, or play fewer minutes, will have any impact on Vogel’s decision for the remaining seeding games.
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