When they lost to the Atlanta Hawks, 96-92, the Lakers lost ground to Stephen… (George Nikitin / Associated…)
Falling 96-92 to the Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers (34-32) lost ground to the Houston Rockets (35-30) and the Golden State Warriors (36-29), who were both victorious Wednesday night.
The Utah Jazz (33-32) lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, keeping the Lakers ahead by just half a game. Both teams are even at 32 in the loss column, but the Jazz own the tiebreaker.
The Rockets are just a game and a half ahead of the Lakers. The NBA announced that their meeting at Staples Center on the final day of the season (April 17) will air nationally on ESPN.
A Lakers' victory would even the season series against Houston at 2-2, making conference record the ensuing tiebreaker (where the Lakers currently have a 1 1/2 game advantage).
Naturally, the tiebreaker doesn't do the Lakers any good if they don't catch Houston in the standings.
The Golden State Warriors are in sixth place in the West with three fewer losses than the Lakers. The Pacific Division rivals meet two more times -- an opportunity for the Lakers to shrink that gap.
The challenge will be staying competitive with Kobe Bryant out indefinitely after a severe ankle sprain.
Dwight Howard needs Kobe Bryant to keep pushing him
Kobe Bryant sprains left ankle in Lakers loss, out indefinitely
Atlanta beats Lakers, 96-92, to end their four-game win streak
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