Lakers guard Kobe Bryant releases a three-point shot that would tie the… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
The Lakers continued their pursuit of a playoff berth, finishing Week 18 two games above .500 with a 33-31 record.
The week started slowly as the Lakers on Tuesday lost to the Thunder in Oklahoma City, 122-105, after their rally fell apart late.
Prior to the game, Kobe Bryant sounded off on Serge Ibaka's flagrant foul to the groin of Clippers forward Blake Griffin, saying he'd follow that up with a smack to Ibaka's mouth.
Former Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who recently rejoined the Thunder, justified the move after leaving the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the season to be with family.
The Lakers' playoff chase started to look dead in the water on Wednesday in New Orleans before the team rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat the Hornets, 108-102. The Lakers scored the final 20 points of the game, holding New Orleans scoreless over the final 6:47.
With the Utah Jazz continuing to struggle -- and spotty play from the Houston Rockets and the Jazz -- the Lakers continued to gain in the standings. Check out a live discussion from Wednesday debating whether the Lakers will make the playoffs.
The Lakers had another comeback in them Friday night against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant's spectacular overtime finish, nailing multiple clutch shots (along with a couple from Steve Nash), helped the team pull out a 118-116 victory.
The Lakers moved into playoff position with their third consecutive victory, beating the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, 90-81. Although postseason play has been in question for most of the season, the Lakers are suddenly within range of the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
With the team finally coming together, Dwight Howard acknowledged that he's been affected -- for the better -- by playing alongside Bryant.
Injuries have been a major factor for the Lakers this season. They've had a healthy roster for one single game all year -- an opening-night loss at Staples Center to the Dallas Mavericks. Howard acknowledged that he could have sat out until at least the All-Star break to recuperate from back surgery.
One of the Lakers' biggest flaws this season is free-throw shooting -- although in the practice gym they're far more accurate than in games. Coach Mike D'Antoni said he wants to have Howard on the floor at the end of games -- without worrying about Howard's shaky free-throw shooting.
With the Lakers' impending visit to Orlando to face the Magic, Howard and Jameer Nelson exchanged barbs through the media. Howard also laughed Sunday at a "Forget You" video parody from the Orlando Sentinel.
Before the week began, former Lakers executive Jerry West said the team will make the playoffs and that the "worst is behind them."
The Lakers are just 2-13 against the top five teams in the Western Conference.
Bryant visited "Jimmy Kimmel Live!' on ABC, suggesting that his career will end "soon." He also made a cameo in a Nike Greater China video.
The Lakers are to travel to China next exhibition season for a pair of games against the Golden State Warriors.
Finally, the team briefly sent Darius Morris and Robert Sacre to the D-Fenders to get some badly needed playing time.
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.