The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff seeding has yet to be determined, but their first-round matchup is certain to be daunting.
After ending a four-game losing streak their last time out, the Lakers face the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night in their final tune-up before the postseason.
Los Angeles will finish in seventh or eighth place in the Western Conference, depending on Wednesday’s results, but either spot will result in a first-round matchup against one of the NBA’s top teams. The Lakers are tied with Golden State, which will face Portland in its final game.
Los Angeles will face Phoenix in the postseason if it holds onto seventh place or top-seeded Dallas if it finishes eighth. The Lakers took a 3-1 lead on Phoenix in the first round of the 2006 playoffs before losing in seven games.
The Suns and Mavericks both boast high-scoring teams. Sacramento (33-48) will miss the playoffs after eight straight appearances, but is eighth in the NBA with 102.8 points per game and should be a good test for Los Angeles’ defense.
The Lakers are 2-1 against the Kings this season, but have allowed 115.7 points per game in those contests. Sacramento has lost five of its last eight, but is averaging 108.9 points in that stretch.
Kobe Bryant had 50 points Sunday as Los Angeles ended a four-game skid with a 109-98 win over Seattle that clinched a playoff spot for the Lakers, who haven’t won consecutive games since winning five in a row from March 16-25.
Bryant reached the 50-point mark for the 10th time this season as Los Angeles won for just the third time in 11 games.
“I think there’s a sigh of relief, but I do think they know that they have to improve their play, too,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I’ve been telling them that if you’re going to play and give away games at the end, it doesn’t matter if you go into the playoffs.
“You’re just going to be fodder for the teams that you have to play against.”
Los Angeles center Kwame Brown, who sat out six straight games with a sprained left ankle and has missed 41 games because of injuries this season, played 27 minutes and scored three points against the SuperSonics.
Sacramento has reached 100 points in a season-high eight straight games. The Kings had seven players score in double figures in a 125-118 loss to New Orleans on Monday night.
Ron Artest had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Sacramento, which will finish with its worst record since going 27-55 in 1997-98.
“Hopefully we’ll end on a win,” said Sacramento guard Mike Bibby, the only player on the team to play every game this season. “Pride, just try to win the last game. It’s a long wait if we don’t.”
Bibby had a combined 71 points in his first two games against the Lakers this season, but was held to eight on 3-of-15 shooting in the last matchup, a 126-103 Los Angeles win on April 1. Artest is averaging 22.0 points and 2.6 steals in his last five games against the Lakers.