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Breakdown: How the Suns can avoid a first round matchup against the Lakers

The Suns may be hoping for a shake-up in the standings before the playoffs, because as it stands the Lakers could be a very possible first-round matchup.
Credit: AP
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, right, shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, May 9, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES — A Sunday night loss to the Los Angeles Lakers has Suns fans now hoping there will be a shake up in the standings prior to the start of the NBA Playoffs.

The Los Angeles Lakers controlled the entire game on Sunday night as Anthony Davis led them to a 123-110 win over the Suns in Los Angeles. Davis had 42 points and 12 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers never trailed. LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schröder were all out for the Lakers.

Now, a bit of a predicament is working against Phoenix, which has danced at the top of the Western Conference-and the entire NBA-standings for nearly the entire year.

Injury troubles have dropped the Lakers all the way to seventh in the Western Conference standings. As it stands currently, the Suns are in the two spot, two games behind the Utah Jazz (who the Suns have defeated in three of three meetings this year), and three games ahead of the Clippers in the third spot.

The Lakers are just one game back of the six seed, currently held by Portland and three games ahead of the eight seed. The Suns will play Portland in one of their remaining four games. 

If the Lakers stay at seven, they will be in the play-in tournament where they will face the 8-seed, currently held by the Golden State Warriors, and the winner will take on the two seed in the first round. 

Probabilities say the Suns will likely finish at that two seed and they'll play the winner of the 7/8 game. 

Below is how things shake out if the playoffs started as of writing. 

Credit: 12 Sports

The Suns would probably rather not play the defending champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. The most plausible way that won't happen is if the Lakers can sneak into the six seed and boot Portland back to seven. 

Portland and the Lakers each have four games left.

Portland: 5/10 vs. Houston (16-52), 5/12 at Utah (50-18), 5/13 at Phoenix (48-20), 5/16 vs. Denver (44-24).
Lakers: 5/11 vs. New York (38-30), 5/12 vs. Houston (16-52), 5/15 at Indiana (31-36), 5/16 at New Orleans (31-37).

The Lakers have an easier finishing schedule, but it does include two back-to-backs and that could be trouble for a short-handed roster. However both of those back-to-backs are against non-playoff teams.

Portland's final three games are against three of the top four teams in the Western Conference including road games at Utah and Phoenix. 

The window is there for the Lakers to potentially move up to the six seed. 

If Portland moved back to seven, they would take on the Warriors, or the Memphis Grizzlies who are half a game back of eight, in the play-in game to face the Suns.

Here's how the Suns have fared against their four most-likely potential first round opponents this season:

vs. Lakers: 3/2 114-104 WIN (Anthony Davis out with injury), 3/21 111-94 WIN (LeBron James, Anthony Davis out with injury), 5/9 123-110 LOSS (LeBron James out). 

vs. Trail Blazers: 2/22 132-100 WIN (CJ McCollum out with injury), 3/11 127-121 WIN (CJ McCollum out with injury), 5/13 TBD

vs. Golden State Warriors: 1/28 114-93 WIN, 3/4 120-98 WIN (Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre out), 5/11 TBD

vs. Grizzlies: 1/18 108-104 LOSS, 2/20 128-97 WIN, 3/15 122-99 WIN

The remaining scenario for the Suns to avoid the Lakers in round one is to get to the one seed. 

They're two games back of the Utah Jazz and both teams have four games to go. If the Suns can close those two games, they'll be the one seed over Utah because of their head-to-head wins against the Jazz this season.

Utah's final four games are at Golden State, vs. Portland, at Oklahoma City and at Sacramento. 

Phoenix's final four games are at Golden State, vs. Portland and two games at San Antonio. 

More than likely, the Suns would need to go 4-0 and hope the Jazz go 2-2.

Catch The Locked On Suns postgame breakdown:

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