The Lakers need to watch out for the Rockets in the standings

At this point of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have virtually no shot at moving into and finishing in the top six of the Western Conference. In fact, as they’re in ninth place in the West and three games behind the eighth-place Phoenix Suns, it looks like the best they can do is finish in the bottom rung of the play-in tournament picture.

Lakers fans have seemed assured for a while that the team will, at worst, be in the play-in tournament. One also has to wonder if the team’s players have been content all along with finishing ninth or 10th in the West and going through the play-in tourney, given all the Lakers’ losses to inferior teams and their inconsistent intensity and urgency.

But it isn’t a lock that L.A. will even reach the play-in tourney. There is a possibility that it could finish behind the Houston Rockets, who are in 11th place right now, in the standings.

The Rockets currently have a six-game winning streak, which is the second-longest active winning streak in the NBA behind the Boston Celtics. During this spurt, they have defeated the Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers.

While Houston has won with defense all season long, its offense has perked up lately. It has ranked fifth in offensive rating during its current winning streak, and guard Jalen Green, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, has been on a heater lately.

The Rockets have a 33-35 record, which puts them just 3.5 games behind the 37-32 Lakers. Since the two teams split the season series, the tiebreaker would be held by the team that has a better record versus Western Conference squads. The Rockets currently hold that tiebreaker, as they have a 22-19 record versus the West, while the Lakers have a 24-23 record versus the West.

The Purple and Gold need to not only do whatever they can to finish ninth and gain home-court advantage in their first play-in game. They also need to make sure they stay ahead of the Rockets. Lately, by winning just seven of their 13 games since the All-Star break, they haven’t been doing a good job of that.

If they don’t get the job done in that regard, they will suffer the indignity of missing the playoffs for the third time in the six seasons they have enjoyed LeBron James’ services.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire