NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 12th (All times eastern)
San Antonio Spurs (61-19) at Los Angeles Lakers (55-25), 10:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Mired in a season-long five-game skid, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are losing out on a chance for the No.2 seed in the Western Conference.
A date with the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night at Staples Center may not be what the doctor ordered for the Lakers, who could see a lot of Gregg Popovich's bench players in their final home game of the regular season.
The Lakers were idle Monday and fell a half-game behind Dallas for the conference's second slot with two games remaining. Los Angeles has the tiebreakers with both the Mavs and Oklahoma City. The Thunder are a game off the second seed in the standings with one to play.
The Pacific Division-champion Lakers dropped their fifth in a row after a nine-game win streak on Sunday against the surging Thunder, as Kobe Bryant netted 31 points in a 120-106 loss in Hollywood. Pau Gasol scored 26 points and Andrew Bynum delivered 12 and 13 rebounds in LA's longest slide since a seven-game drought from March 2-15, 2007. The Lakers were 17-1 after the All- Star break and haven't lived up to expectations in the recent slump.
"I don't know why we started forcing it in the fourth quarter," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "We have to get our rhythm back. We're not sharp as a defensive group."
Ron Artest had 10 points in a losing effort. The Lakers, winless in three straight as the host, will wrap up the 2010-11 regular season on Wednesday at Sacramento and are 29-11 at home.
The top-seeded Spurs will conclude the regular season with back-to-back road games against the Lakers and Suns, and have won four in a row following a season-worst six-game losing streak.
San Antonio is coming off Saturday's 111-102 victory versus the Utah Jazz in the Alamo City thanks to Richard Jefferson's team-high 20 points. Tony Parker posted 13 points and handed out seven assists for the Spurs, who got 12 points apiece from DeJuan Blair, Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal.
"Great win for us," Parker said. "Everybody played well and I think we'll see the same thing in the next two games, everybody getting a lot of minutes and at the same time, all the starters getting some rest. So I think it's a great thing."
The Spurs' first-round opponent in the playoffs has yet to be determined, as the Grizzlies and Hornets are still jockeying for position. The Spurs own a 25-14 mark away from the AT&T Center and are 1-4 in the past five road games.
San Antonio has won two of three meetings with the Lakers this season and is aiming for its first series victory since taking three of four matchups in the 2005-06 campaign.
04/12 10:51:38 ET