The NBA’s 2020-21 regular season has come to a close, and the playoff picture is solidifying. The top-6 seeds in the Western Conference have secured playoff berths, but the seventh and eighth seeds still need to be decided by a series of play-in games. This could be a big year for dark horses, and we’ve identified a pair who are capable of making some noise in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers
It’s hard to consider the seventh-seeded Lakers underdogs because their odds to repeat as champs are +400, but their road to the final stage should be much tougher this time around. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have missed a ton of games because of injuries, and Los Angeles hasn't had much of a chance to build chemistry. The Lakers will play at least two more games than all the teams in the top 6 and won’t have a home-court advantage for the duration of the playoffs. Los Angeles isn’t necessarily a longshot, but they do have the odds stacked against them. Having to go through the Golden State Warriors in a play-in game won’t necessarily make things easier.
Golden State Warriors
The eighth-seeded Warriors are far from being a dominant force in the Western Conference but have the league’s most dangerous scorer in Stephen Curry at their disposal. Golden State could just barely squeak into the playoffs, but having a player who can go for 40 points on even given night will be troubling for the higher-ranked teams. The Warriors were swept by the Suns during the regular season this year but managed to go 2-1 against the banged-up Utah Jazz. Utah was upset in a thrilling, seven-game series last year, and its two most important players guards — Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell — are dealing with lower-body injuries. Will either be equipped to contain Curry and company when the playoffs roll around? We’ll find out soon.
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