Race For Second Place

59329474With L.A.’s loss in New Orleans on Monday night, the task of catching Cleveland for the NBA’s best regular season record grew increasingly difficult, if even possible.

The Cavs hold a four-game lead over the Lakers with eight to play for each, putting the magic number for Cleveland (a combination of Lakers losses and Cavs wins) at four. Meanwhile, L.A.’s lead over Orlando for the second-best overall record is at two games, the Lakers also holding a five-game edge over Dallas out West:

League Standings
1) Cleveland (58-16), 0.0 Games back
2) L.A. Lakers (54-20), 4.0
3) Orlando (52-22), 6.0
4) Dallas (49-25), 9.0

Last season, the Cavs edged out the Lakers for home court advantage throughout the playoffs by one game (66 wins to 65), while L.A. had a 6-game edge on Orlando. That ended up being the key, since the Magic handled Cleveland 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, even without point guard Jameer Nelson. This season, Orlando added Vince Carter, Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes, while Cleveland acquired Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison.

While the Lakers have certainly proven an ability to win in Orlando after the 4-1 Finals series that saw two straight road wins clinch the franchise’s 15th title, holding home court is of course preferable. Here are the remaining eight games for both teams:

L.A. Lakers Final 8: @ Atlanta, Utah, San Antonio, @ Denver, @ Minnesota, Portland, Sacramento, @ L.A. Clippers

Orlando Magic Final 8: @ Dallas, @ San Antonio, Memphis, Washington, New York, @ Cleveland, @ Indiana, Philadelphia