Lakers Get West’s No. 3 Seed

With the L.A. Clippers falling to Atlanta on the road on Tuesday evening, the Lakers clinched the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

The Purple and Gold had a magic number of one heading into the contest, needing either a Clippers loss or a victory at Sacramento on Thursday to seal the deal.

But who will the Lakers play in Round 1?

Well, a key matchup on Wednesday should provide a more clear answer, as current No. 6 seed Denver (36-28) plays a critical game at Oklahoma City. The Thunder have nothing to play for, having already locked up the No. 2 seed, though should they beat Denver, they’ll be more likely to face the Nuggets in the first round, giving Dallas an inside track to that No. 6 seed and a rematch of last season’s Western Semi’s against the Lakers.

Should the Nuggets beat OKC, they can then clinch the sixth position with either a season-ending win at Minnesota on Thursday, or a Dallas (36-29) loss to Atlanta. They could also get the No. 6 spot by going 1-1, in conjunction with a Dallas loss. On the contrary, the Mavericks can jump into the six slot if they beat the Hawks on Thursday, along with a Denver loss to either OKC or Minnesota. Denver needs to finish at least one-half game ahead of Dallas, since the Mavericks own the tiebreaker.

In short:

Lakers Play Denver If…
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas loses to Atlanta

Lakers Play Dallas If…
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas defeats Atlanta

If the playoffs ended today, here are your matchups:

#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Utah*
#2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Dallas
#3 Lakers vs. #6 Denver
#4 LAC vs. #5 Memphis**
*Pending the result of Utah’s home matchup against Phoenix later tonight.
**Memphis could still earn the No. 4 seed if they defeat Orlando at home and the Clippers lose at New York.

SMALL FORWARD SHORTAGE FOR THURSDAY
Lakers coach Mike Brown may now choose to rest some of his stars against the Kings, or at least limit minutes, since the game is meaningless in terms of postseason standing, but he’d have been short at the small forward position regardless.

L.A. will be without starting small forward Metta World Peace, suspended for seven games for an elbow of OKC guard James Harden, and MWP’s backup Matt Barnes will also miss the trip due to a sprained right ankle. This leaves Devin Ebanks – who played all 10 overtime minutes in Sunday’s win over OKC – as the lone small forward on the roster.