Samuel Dalembert blocks out Pau Gasol during the first half of the Lakers'… (Tannen Maury / EPA )
The Lakers (38-36) won two and lost two in Week 22, slipping behind the Utah Jazz in the standings. With eight games to go, the playoffs are no longer a "certainty" -- if they ever were.
After falling behind to the Golden State Warriors by 25 points, the Lakers' comeback stalled at six as they lost on Monday, 109-103. The loss to the Warriors all but ended the Lakers' hopes of catching Golden State in the standings.
Metta World Peace injured his knee in the loss, sitting out the second half. An MRI revealed a torn meniscus, which requires surgery and will knock him out of action for at least six weeks.
Despite a late run by the Timberwolves, the Lakers held off Minnesota on Wednesday night, 120-117. Kobe Bryant blocked Ricky Rubio's three-point attempt to tie at the buzzer.
On Thursday, the NBA ruled that Bryant should have been called for a foul on the play, which would have given Rubio three free throws.
The Lakers then failed to win on consecutive nights for the 15th time this season, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-103. Steve Nash sat the final 17 minutes with hip and hamstring issues. Bryant also left hobbled with a bone spur in his left foot.
Both decided to give it a go against the Kings on Saturday night in Sacramento. Bryant led the Lakers with 14 assists as the Lakers won, 103-98. Nash left less than two minutes in with a strained hamstring.
In the victory over Sacramento, Bryant became the NBA's fourth-highest all-time leading scorer, passing Wilt Chamberlain's career total of 31,419.
The year for the Lakers has been defined by nonstop injuries.
The Lakers fell to ninth place behind the Jazz, with two losses in three games but the Dallas Mavericks also emerged as a real threat.
To have any long-term success in the playoffs (if they make it), the Lakers need Pau Gasol properly reintegrated into the lineup after he has been sitting for six weeks with a foot injury. Until he improves his conditioning and finds chemistry with Dwight Howard, the Lakers are vulnerable.
With Nash questionable due to the hamstring strain, Steve Blake has become even more important for the Lakers over the final weeks.
World Peace has an early-termination option in his contract for next season. He might consider opting out if the Lakers are willing to give him a new, longer-term deal.
With Howard finally rounding into shape, he took extra time in practice to work on his outside shot. Prior to the loss to the Bucks, Howard was startled by Milwaukee's mascot, Bango.
Phil Jackson joined Twitter. His first tweet was a perplexing "11 champ;ipnsikp[ ringhs" -- which ultimately proved to be a long-play joke on the world.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," talking about his experience on ABC's "Splash" and some history with former teammate Magic Johnson. The former Lakers center also opened up, sharing his personal regrets in a blog post.
Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson joined together for a pair of "It's not complicated" commercials for AT&T.
In legal news, A.C. Green's home was reportedly burglarized with his three Lakers championship rings stolen. Jordan Hill's Bentley crashed into the lobby of a Marina Del Rey condominium -- Hill was not the driver.
Lakers' Steve Blake will be counted on to produce more
Kobe Bryant becomes the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer
With Steve Nash hobbled, Lakers need more from Steve Blake
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.