Shaquille O’Neal Believes Lakers Will Beat Suns If They Meet In First Round
Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers season has not gone how anyone hoped to this point. With nine games left, the Lakers are 11 games under .500 and are fighting to stay alive in the race for the Play-In Tournament. Despite some better play in recent games, it has been difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel for L.A.

If the Lakers manage to stay in the Play-In Tournament, they would need to win two games against teams that have blown them out already this season. That would only earn them the No. 8 seed and a date with the juggernaut Phoenix Suns.

The Suns have already secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, reaching 60 wins with eight games left to play. So if everything goes right for the Lakers the rest of the season, they’ll only be rewarded with a first-round matchup against a 60-plus win team.

Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal recognized those long odds yet still went on record with a bold prediction. He stated that if the Lakers make it through the Play-In Tournament, they will defeat the Suns in the first round, via NBA on TNT:

“I’m disappointed in my Lakers. A lot of people are. We all forgot about their ages. ‘Oh, [Russell] Westbrook’s coming. Oh, they got Carmelo [Anthony].’ Like we’re used to having teams with big-name stars on them. So you got a team with three Hall of Famers, you would think they’d at least be in sixth or seventh. And then [Anthony Davis] isn’t playing. So I doubt they even make the Play-In game.

But if they do, they’ll definitely have to win, and they will face Phoenix in the first round. And if they make it to the eighth spot, they will beat Phoenix. You heard me, because [Davis] is going to be back… Westbrook has been playing bad, all it takes is for certain people like that to just play good one or two games and it snaps right back.”

The Lakers making it through the Play-In Tournament and then defeating the Suns would be a near-historic accomplishment. The Suns have been far and away the best team in the NBA during the regular season, while the Lakers have not won back-to-back games since early January.

If L.A. wants to make noise in the playoff picture, they first need to focus on staying in the No. 9 or No. 10 spot. They hold just a two-game advantage over the San Antonio Spurs for No. 11 and are tied with the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 9.

Of course, Davis returning absolutely could make a difference for the Lakers, but at this point, it’s unclear exactly when that will happen and what Davis will look like when it does.

Davis could return first week of April

ESPN reported recently that Davis could return sometime during the first week of April, but this has not been confirmed by anyone with the Lakers. Getting him back for the last few games of the regular season could be huge to build momentum for the Play-In Tournament.

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