Lakers guard Kobe Bryant attempts a layup in front of Portland big man Meyers… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers (40-37) won two of three in Week 23, falling to ninth place in the Western Conference. The Lakers have to hope the Utah Jazz lose at least one of their final four. In the meantime, they'll need to win without misstep to have a chance at making the postseason.
The Lakers haven't won on consecutive nights all season (15 tries). They'll have one last chance to do so, hosting the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday followed by a trip to Portland Wednesday. They'll also host the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs as the regular season winds down.
All told, the team is five losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-23.
Tuesday vs. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets are one of the worst teams in the league at 27-50. While some teams seem to be more dedicated to improving draft position, the Hornets are still competing.
The Lakers have three straight victories over the Hornets, but the recent one in March took a massive 33-9 fourth-quarter comeback from the Lakers in one of their most memorable wins of the year.
If the Lakers can't beat the Hornets at Staples Center on Tuesday, they're not going to get anywhere close to a playoff berth.
Wednesday at Portland Trail Blazers
The Lakers will need to win on a back-to-back night Wednesday, playing on the road in Portland. They haven't done it all year -- their final chance becomes crucial to the Lakers catching the Jazz.
Steve Nash was injured in the second game of the season, the Lakers' first to Portland. The Lakers lost the first but won the next two at Staples Center.
The Lakers always seem struggle in Portland.
The Trail Blazers have been playing without Nicolas Batum (shoulder), which would give the Lakers an advantage in another must-win game.
Friday vs. Golden State Warriors
The Lakers have two early wins over the Warriors but fell in Oakland in late March despite a big fourth-quarter rally.
The Warriors haven't clinched a playoff berth in the West just yet, but they're about to. They won't climb higher than six but are still battling the Houston Rockets to stay ahead of seven.
If the Lakers aren't able to slow down Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack and David Lee, they'll need the Jazz to lose more than one along the way.
Sunday vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are playing without Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker but they're still a tough team to beat. The Lakers have played San Antonio well this year, despite playing short-handed.
While the Lakers still need to make the postseason, which may be a challenge, the Spurs are the more favorable matchup than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
San Antonio is relying on Tim Duncan with Ginobili and Parker sidelined. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard can at least challenge him with size. The Lakers are usually beaten by depth and speed, and though the Spurs execute their game plan extremely well, they may be vulnerable on Sunday.