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The Race for the 8th Seed

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Kobe Bryant put the Lakers in good position last night, but it’s still tight down the stretch.

The Race for the 8th Seed

The push for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference is going to come down to the wire. Two teams are vying for the eighth seed: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz. After Kobe Bryant's incredible 47-point performance (in a full 48 minutes of action with, not to mention, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks) propelled the Lakers to a 113-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers moved a full game ahead of the Jazz with just three games remaining.

Here's where things get interesting. The Jazz hold the tiebreak over the Lakers. Utah can win that final spot if they end the season tied with Los Angeles. The Lakers need to finish ahead of Utah to claim that spot outright. Let's look at each team's final three games and see who will earn that final playoff step.

Los Angeles Lakers:

Los Angeles will have the luxury of playing their final three games in front of their home crowd at the Staples Center, but they have to tangle with three playoff teams from the conference. Tomorrow, LA plays the Golden State Warriors. Sunday, they face the San Antonio Spurs. They close out the season with the Houston Rockets. On the season, LA is 2-0 against Golden State, 0-2 against Houston and 0-2 against San Antonio.

The home court gives LA a nice boost, but that's not their only advantage they have one of the most motivated players in the league on their side right now. Bryant is trying to will this team that has been riddled with injuries into the postseason. In the months of February and March, Kobe played 40+ minutes in four games. In the month of April, Kobe has played 40+ in five games. If he can keep up this level of play (and if Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard continue to score efficiently like they did last night), LA is a shoe-in for the final spot. But against three talented teams like these (even if the Spurs plan on resting some of their regulars), it might just take everything Bryant has left in the tank.

Prediction: 2-1

Utah Jazz:

Utah plays the Minnesota Timberwolves in a home-and-home on Friday (home) and Monday (road) to get the ball rolling, then finish up the season on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies. On the season, Utah is 2-0 against the Timberwolves and 0-2 against the Grizzlies.

Common logic would dictate that Utah has a great chance to run the table here, but that matchup with Memphis is likely the only thing that will stand between the Jazz and the playoffs. Memphis has something to play for, too, as they are hanging on to the four seed but only trail Denver by a game for the third seed. Memphis is still very much jockeying for position, and they will want to win just as much as Utah. The Jazz are hot of late, winning seven of nine, and they will have to make it 10 of 12 if they want to sneak in. I just don't see them getting by a tough Grizzlies squad.

Prediction: 2-1

Ultimately, while the Lakers might drop one here during this final stretch, I don't think the Jazz will be able to run the table with that final game against the Grizzlies looming. Kobe and the Lakers will make the Playoffs as the eight seed, and while anything can happen, their luck doesn't seem poised to last.

Who do you think will win the eighth seed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see your favorite teams clash during the NBA Playoffs!

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