Golden State forward David Lee, left, and guard Stephen Curry chase after… (Chuck Burton / Associated…)
With a hard-fought victory in Indiana on Friday night, the Lakers gained a full game on the Golden State Warriors, who lost at home to the Chicago Bulls.
The sixth-place Warriors (37-30) are now just a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets (36-30). The two will meet Sunday in Houston. The Rockets have won the three previous meetings this season.
If the Lakers handle the Sacramento Kings (23-43) at Staples Center on Sunday, they'll gain a game on the loser of the Houston-Golden State game.
If that's the Rockets, the Lakers would be just a half-game out of seventh place. If the Warriors lose, the Lakers would finish the weekend just one game behind Golden State, which would then be in seventh place.
The Lakers still play the Warriors twice. They'll also see the Rockets on the final day of the regular season.
Kobe Bryant's sprained ankle limited him to only 12 minutes on Friday against the Pacers. With the playoff race so tight heading into the final weeks of the season, the Lakers need to keep winning regardless of Bryant's status.
After the Kings, the Lakers visit the Phoenix Suns (22-44) on Monday and are off until Friday, when they host the Washington Wizards (22-42).
Meanwhile the Lakers are one game ahead of the ninth-place Utah Jazz, which hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. The Jazz own the tiebreaker over the Lakers should the two teams finish the season with identical records.
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