Bear with me for a moment. I was looking at the various playoff races, and noticed a potential scenario that could get very interesting.
The Lakers currently hold a one game lead over the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Jazz hold the tie breaker, so they only need to catch the Lakers -- they don't have to pass them. The Lakers have three home games remaining, all against playoff teams presumably with playoff positioning to play for (the Warriors, Spurs and Rockets). If the Lakers win out they obviously make the playoffs, but by the same token they could lose any one of those games. Let's say they lose to the Spurs.
The Jazz have three games left as well, a home-and-home against the Timberwolves and then they close in Memphis. The Timberwolves have nothing but pride to play for, so presumably a highly motivated Jazz team can win those two. If we pencil the Lakers in for a loss against the Spurs and pencil the Jazz in for two wins against the Wolves, the Lakers and Jazz will go into the last day of the season in a tie -- and remember, the Jazz hold the tie-breaker.
But it's unlikely that the Jazz can beat the Grizzlies in Memphis -- not if Memphis has something to play for. Of course, if Memphis is already locked into their playoff seed, then the Grizzlies would have no reason to play hard, and might even choose to rest key players in advance of the playoffs.
The Grizzlies play in Houston Friday night and then face the Clippers on Saturday. The Rockets still have plenty to play for as they'd like to catch the Warriors and move up to the sixth seed. If Houston beats Memphis and the Clippers beat Memphis, the Clippers could have a one game lead over the Grizzlies going into the final day of the season -- and the Clippers own the tie-breaker. Which would mean, win or lose in that final game against the Jazz, Memphis would still be the five seed.
Obviously, those are a lot of games we're talking about -- nine or ten games that have to go more or less in a particular way to set up this scenario. However, with the exception of the Clippers winning in Memphis, it's probably the way the odds say these games will go.
It's not like the Clippers should need additional motivation in Memphis -- but if this plays out, they can help take control of the race for home court advantage, while at the same time boosting Utah's chances of grabbing the final playoff spot from the Lakers.
It's something to keep an eye on.
(Just a quick note. I am much more concerned of course with the Clippers making the playoffs than I am with the Lakers missing the playoffs. Having said that, wanting the Lakers to miss the playoffs goes beyond simple schadenfreude. Gaining respect as an NBA team in Los Angeles isn't exactly a zero sum game, but at the same time the Lakers do take a lot of the oxygen out of the room. If the Clippers were to go on a playoff run while the Lakers were worrying about rebuilding it would be a first, and would be an important milestone in establishing a new order. This will always be a Lakers town -- but the level of attention that would be given to the Clippers during a Laker-free postseason would be gratifying to the team and to their fans. There's a direct, concrete benefit to the Clippers if they are the only game in town during the postseason; so rooting for the Lakers to miss the playoffs is quite pragmatic. It's also fun.)