The Lakers Aren’t Headed To Playoffs, According To Team’s Own History

If Los Angeles Lakers fans don’t already know it, the number 48 is the most important statistic to know this season. Forty-eight wins is what it takes to make the playoffs as an eighth seed, averaged over the last five seasons, according to the NBA. It’s not the first time that stat — or the corresponding record the team must achieve over its final “X” games to get to said playoffs — have been mentioned here, but their relevance grows as the Lakers’ opportunity for a playoff spot slowly closes.

Last night’s fourth-quarter collapse against Phoenix (read all about it in Smack) leaves Los Angeles 20-26 with 36 games remaining, obviously leaving the team with the lofty goal of finishing 28-8 to reach the averaged playoff plateau. In 64 seasons of Lakers data at Basketball-reference.com, the Lakers have won 28 games or more eight times in their final 36 games. The last time was 2008-09, a championship season with talent and chemistry far superior to this team. The next most recent 28-wins-or-better season was 1999-2000 (another NBA championship season). In fact, six of those eight seasons ended in championships, the rest being 1987, 1985, 1980, anad 1972. There’s a reason why finishing with a season with a 78 percent winning streak or better is tough, and a reason why only the few teams that do it are likely to be title-worthy.

Does this Lakers team strike anyone as being at that level right now?

Forty-eight wins isn’t a hard and fast limit to where the Lakers must finish, of course. There are numerous exceptions within the past 10 seasons of teams grabbing the final spot from the West without that many victories, the lowest being Denver’s 43 wins in 2004. Utah, Sacramento and Phoenix each had 44 wins and also got in in that period. Given that threshold, there’s a bit better news: 25 percent of the Lakers’ final 64 seasons have finished their final 36 games somewhere between 24 and 27 wins. It’s happened recently, too, with 24 wins coming in 2010-11 and 27 in 2007-08 (however, that was an NBA Finals team).

Check out the Lakers’ full final 36-game results here if you want. The Lakers have had a number of “new seasons” within this season already when the motto has been starting over. Can they get it together now, for once?

What do you think of the Lakers’ chances?

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