The sky is still blue, the grass is still green, and the Los Angeles Lakers are still a mess.
Oklahoma City's 122-105 thumping of LA Tuesday night only reinforces what realistic basketball fans have known for months—the Lakers' season might as well be over.
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If you've paid any attention to the Lakers this year, you know the story. For most of the season they've been a walking, talking joke, and what the Lake Show has lacked in quality it sure made up for in entertainment. But recently, there's no question things have been better. Prior to tonight's game, LA had won 13 of 18, including a 5-1 mark since the death of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
Their improvement, combined with the recent ineptitude of the Warriors and Jazz, has allowed the Lakers to not only work their way all the way back into the No. 9 slot in the Western Conference, but come within just four games of the Warriors for the No. 6 seed. Sounds like a complete turnaround, right?
With the Nuggets' win Tuesday night, Denver now sits 9.5 games ahead of the Lakers for the No. 5 seed in the West. Why is that important? Because catching the Nuggets and snagging the five seed is the Lakers' only hope of playoff survival—anything short of that will result in immediate extermination.
Just for fun, let's say the Lakers not only make the playoffs, but pass Houston, Utah and Golden State to grab the six seed. Keep in mind, we're talking best-case scenario. The problem with that is the six seed would mean they would likely have to face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, who are 3-0 against the Lakers this year and would take great pride in annihilating their arch-rivals on the national stage.
Or perhaps, more realistically, LA snags either the No. 7 or No. 8 seed, and ends up playing the Thunder or Spurs in the first round. Please.
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Watching this disheveled team try to beat the Spurs or Thunder in a playoff series would be like watching a penguin try to take off and fly: pretty cute, kinda' funny, but ultimately no hope for success.
And then there's door No. 3—finish what they started and miss the playoffs entirely.
So that's pretty much what it comes down to for the team so many thought would run away with the Western Conference. They've got zero shot at catching red-hot Denver, so it's either miss the playoffs and be embarrassed, or make the playoffs and get humiliated.
Tuesday was the sixth straight time the Lakers have left Oklahoma City with a loss. That's not a trend that's going to change anytime soon, and it's just the latest example of why any talk about the Lakers finally improving or turning the corner is simply pointless.
LA is better, but their start to the season put them in a hole that's far too much to overcome.
See you next season, Lakers.