Houston guard James Harden (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
The Lakers (44-37) had a perfect Week 24, winning all four games. Unfortunately the team also lost Kobe Bryant for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon.
Currently in eighth place, the Lakers are 1 1/2 games ahead of the 42-38 Utah Jazz. If the Lakers win their final game of the regular season, they'll make the playoffs. If the Jazz lose one of their two remaining games, the Lakers will make the postseason.
If the Lakers lose on Wednesday and the Jazz win in Minnesota and Memphis, the Lakers' season will come to a halt.
All told, the team is four losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-24.
Wednesday vs. Houston Rockets
Steve Nash is still questionable for Wednesday, but the Lakers played so well defensively on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs perhaps it's best the team sticks with what's working.
If Nash isn't truly healthy, he probably shouldn't be guarding Jeremy Lin.
The Rockets (45-35) play on Monday in Phoenix against the Suns before coming to Staples Center on Wednesday. If Houston loses to the Suns, the Lakers can catch the Rockets in the standings with a win.
If the Jazz lose on Monday, the pressure lifts from the Lakers -- which might reduce the importance of the Rockets' visit. If not, the Lakers postseason may ride entirely on Wednesday's outcome.
Houston has James Harden and his 26 points a game along with 5.9 assists and 1.8 steals. Lin is putting up 13.3 points and 6.1 assists.
The Rockets don't have the size to match the Lakers, but Omer Asik has had a breakthrough season, averaging 10.2 points and 11.7 rebounds a night.
In addition to big performances from Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, the Lakers need their guards and forwards to hit outside shots to space the floor. If Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark and/or Antawn Jamison are hitting -- and the team is playing defense -- the Lakers are dangerous.
Given they've needed to win almost every game over the last couple of months, the Lakers may need the game Wednesday more than any other to finally qualify for the playoffs.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.