Clippers point guard Chris Paul reacts after getting fouled by Lakers guard… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers needed to win all three games in Week 23 to stay ahead of the Utah Jazz. They managed two out of three, falling back into ninth place.
The week began against the Dallas Mavericks with the Lakers retiring Shaquille O'Neal's jersey at halftime.
O'Neal visited "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" the night before the jersey retirement, talking Lakers and eating Peeps in volume. Before the game, O'Neal said he never had a "real dislike" for former teammate Kobe Bryant. He also prodded center Dwight Howard to do more for the Lakers.
After the ceremony, O'Neal released a video on YouTube to give a more thorough thank you to his teammates, family and supporters along the way.
Brian Shaw, who won three titles with O'Neal, was glad the Lakers decided to retire O'Neal's jersey, saying, "He deserves it."
Oddly, the Lakers branded O'Neal's jersey with his name across the front instead of the back -- something they corrected before the end of the week.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had kind words for O'Neal but called Phil Jackson the "first housewife of the Lakers."
Steve Nash continued to sit out through the week because of hamstring and hip soreness.
Metta World Peace wouldn't put a timeline on his return from knee surgery but was excited about how well his knee felt just a week after going under the knife. The Lakers upgraded his return timeline from six weeks at a minimum to four to six weeks.
Kobe Bryant notched a triple-double as the Lakers all but knocked the Mavericks out of the playoff race, 101-81.
The Lakers climbed into eighth place when the Utah Jazz lost at home to the Denver Nuggets.
Next they held on to defeat the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies in a hard-fought, low-scoring 86-84 battle on Friday. After the game, Bryant said he was happy with the Lakers' improved level of play defensively.
Defending Mike Conley of the Grizzlies, the Lakers used "ice" to slow the pick and roll.
Bryant said that when he and Gasol run the screen roll together, they're an "unstoppable" offensive duo.
ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said he expected the Clippers to finish the season sweep of the Lakers on Sunday.
The Clippers did just that, beating them, 109-95, and dropping the Lakers back into ninth place in the West. Pau Gasol said he'd keep an eye on Sunday's Jazz visit to the Golden State Warriors.
The Jazz got an important road victory, sinking the Lakers' playoff hopes even further. Utah has just four left to play. If they don't lose a single game, the Lakers can't catch them in the standings.
After a season of struggle (both with team chemistry and health), Gasol started to find his way playing alongside Howard and for Coach Mike D'Antoni. The Lakers still need to improve their free-throw shooting and defense and reduce turnovers.
Earl Clark has adjusted to a return to the bench with Gasol healthier and back in the starting lineup. He gave the Lakers a strong boost throughout the week.
If the Lakers make the postseason, the likely opponent might be the Oklahoma City Thunder after they defeated the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. The Thunder did lose on Sunday, giving a window for the Spurs to finish atop the Western Conference.
The Lakers sent Darius Morris and Robert Sacre to the D-League for a one-game stint with the D-Fenders, helping the team beat the Canton Charge, 114-109.
Antawn Jamison and Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham recalled their NCAA battle on "Backstage: Lakers."
Two-time Hall of Famer Bill Sharman is auctioning off his 2010 Lakers championship ring, with the proceeds going to charity.
Finally, Howard gave Louisville's Kevin Ware a call of support as he recovers from a brutal leg injury.
Photos: Clippers 109, Lakers 95
Clippers get first season series sweep over Lakers
Kobe Bryant says he and Pau Gasol are unstoppable offensive duo
Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.