LeBron James and the Lakers are the top seed in the West, but it comes with a huge disadvantage — they don't know who they'll face in the playoffs

insider@insider.com (Tyler Lauletta)
·3 mins read
LeBron James and the Lakers should have home-court advantage through the playoffs. Instead, they'll have to wait an extra day to know their opponent. <p class="copyright">Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports</p>
LeBron James and the Lakers should have home-court advantage through the playoffs. Instead, they'll have to wait an extra day to know their opponent.
  • LeBron James and the Lakers are the top-seed in the Western Conference heading into the NBA Playoffs.

  • Normally, being the top team in the conference comes with the benefit of home-court advantage, but inside the bubble, their status as the top team in the West could be detrimental.

  • While other teams are already beginning to prepare for their eventual playoff opponent, thanks to the new play-in formant for the final spot in the West, the Lakers will have to wait a few extra days to know who they are facing in the first round.

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LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers should be sitting pretty heading into the postseason.

Through the first few games inside the bubble, the Lakers sealed the top seed in the Western Conference. In a normal year, this would assure them home-court advantage throughout the postseason, but given the nature of the bubble, homecourt advantage is null and void this year.

In fact, the Lakers' status as the top team in the West is actually a disadvantage this year, due to the new structure of the postseason.

The NBA added a new rule inside the bubble to ensure more teams had a chance to fight for playoff contention in the crowded Western Conference — as long as the team in ninth place at the close of the season was within four games of the eight-seed, they would force a play-in series for the final spot. To win the right to take on the Lakers, the team in ninth would have to win two games, while the team in eighth would have to win just once.

As things stand, there are still four teams in the West contending for the eighth and ninth spots in the postseason picture, and even once those teams are set, the Lakers still won't know their first-round opponent until the play-in series is contested. Meanwhile, whoever the Lakers eventually are set against will have known that they're destined to match up against Los Angeles for more than a week.

LeBron James stressed the importance of knowing your opponent for postseason preparation after the team's win over the Nuggets on Monday night.

"It's a different type of preparation that goes into a playoff game," said James when asked about the team's readiness for the coming postseason. "You spend hours and hours on teams because you know you're going to be locked in with them at for least four games."

"Once we know who we're playing — obviously we're going to wait on that — then you start to lock into your opponent," James said. "You build good habits along the way. We have good habits. So we are ready for the playoffs — if the playoffs started tomorrow, we'd be ready for them. But as far as the mental side, you can't really lock in on your opponent until you know your opponent. So there's another level to playoff basketball."

 

Unfortunately for James and the Lakers, they won't be able to get to that next level of readiness until the play-in series has concluded.

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