The Lakers have had an unbelievably disappointing season, but they have finally been playing like the team everybody was expecting before the season started. With Dwight dominating the paint and Kobe closing out every close game, the Lakers have gone 9-2 in their last 11 games. That run has finally put the Lakers into a playoff spot, currently occupying the eighth seed and a half game up from the Utah Jazz. But the Lakers have a lot more ground to cover if they want to make a serious playoff run.
With the seventh or eighth seed the Laker's would presumably have to play either the Spurs or the Thunder. Even with the Lakers current level of play, there's slim to no chance that the Lakers could beat those teams in the first round without home-court advantage. The only way the Lakers will advance through the first round is if they are able to secure the sixth seed, or higher. With the sixth seed the Lakers would be playing the Clippers or the Grizzlies, who although they would also be tough matchups, wouldn't be nearly as difficult to beat as the Spurs or Thunder.
Luckily for the Lakers, the teams in their way to the sixth seed, the Rockets and the Warriors, are all slumping. A surge past both of them isn't too hard to imagine. A matchup against the Clippers would pretty much eliminate the Clippers' home court-advantage -- I can tell you the Lakers would get a lot more turnout at each game. I'm definitely not saying that I'd favor the Lakers in this situation, as the Clippers have won both times they've played this season -- it's just a lot more likely than it would be versus the Spurs or Thunder. A matchup with Memphis would probably be L.A.'s pick though. The Lakers have had their worst games this season when they've played young teams who run the fast break. But Memphis is a power team, relying on their bigs to out-muscle teams in the paint rather than trusting their guards to make plays in the half court or fastbreak. Memphis and the Lakers are both worse than league average in fast break points per game while the Clippers and Thunder are both in the top 10 with San Antonio at number 11.
If the everything breaks right and the Lakers climb to sixth while the Grizzlies overtake the Clippers for third place, than the Lakers just may gather enough steam to continue on past the first round. Just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Lakers has, so maybe they're finally going to catch a break.