Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Page 4 of 5

L.A.’s Western Playoff Picture: April 12

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE CURRENT STANDINGS:
With two days left of regular season games, the Eastern Conference playoff matchups are all set … yet we have no idea what we’ll see in the West. As in, the only things set in stone are San Antonio’s No. 1 seed and Denver’s No. 5.

But will that keep us from speculating wildly to determine the possibilities for the Lakers?

Nope.

Lakers Get the No. 2 seed in the West IF:
1) L.A. wins both of its final two games vs. San Antonio (Tuesday) and at Sacramento (Wednesday).
2) L.A. wins 1-of-2 games and Dallas loses at New Orleans (Wed.).

Lakers Get the No. 3 seed in the West IF:
1) L.A. loses 1-of-2 games and Dallas beats New Orleans.
2) L.A. loses 1-of-2 or both games, Dallas beats New Orleans and Oklahoma City loses vs. Milwaukee (Wed.).
3) LAL loses both games and Dallas and Oklahoma City lose their final games. The Lakers have the tiebreaker over OKC and would be No. 3.

Lakers Get the No. 4 seed in the West IF:
1) L.A. loses both of its games and Oklahoma City beats Milwaukee.
Editor’s note: OKC would only get the No. 2 seed if both Dallas and the Lakers lose all remaining games and the Thunder win their finale. Dallas could lose to N.O. and still stay above L.A. in the standings if L.A. loses both games.

Now, whom L.A. would potentially play in the first round is even more complicated, since Memphis, Portland, New Orleans and even Denver are all in play. Much light will be shed on the issue after Portland plays Memphis on Tuesday, though all three teams also play on Wednesday. Of course, it all depends upon L.A.’s seed.

Alas, here’s a look at some potential scenarios:

Lakers would face the Hornets IF:
- With L.A. as the No. 2 seed, New Orleans beats Dallas, Portland beats Memphis (Tue.) and Portland beats Golden State (Wed.) to make N.O. the 7 seed.
- With L.A. as the No. 3 seed, New Orleans beats Dallas, Portland loses to Memphis and Golden State and Memphis beats Portland but loses to the Clippers. All three teams would then have 35 losses, with New Orleans owning both tiebreakers to be the 6 seed.

Lakers would face the Blazers IF:
- With L.A. as the No. 2 seed, Portland loses to Memphis and beats Golden State, Memphis beats Portland and the Clippers, and New Orleans loses to Dallas, making Portland the 7 seed.
- With L.A. as the 3 seed, Portland beats Memphis and Golden State to lock up the 6 seed.

Lakers would face the Grizzlies IF:
- With L.A. as the No. 2 seed, Memphis loses to Portland but beats the Clippers, and New Orleans loses to Dallas, making Memphis the 7 seed.
- With L.A. as the 3 seed, Memphis beats Portland and the Clippers to earn the 6 seed.

Lakers would face Denver IF:
- L.A. drops to the 4 seed by losing both of its games and Oklahoma City winning out; the Nuggets are locked into the No. 5 seed.

Bryant Gets a T Back

When Kobe Bryant was whistled for his 15th technical foul of the season after getting wrapped up with Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins on Sunday, the tweets started coming in wondering if Bryant could be suspended for the playoffs were he to get No. 16 in the team’s final game at Sacramento.

While the answer to that question is “no,” it doesn’t matter quite as much to the Lakers since the NBA rescinded Kobe’s 14th technical foul from Friday night’s game at Portland. Referee Violet Palmer T’d Bryant up thinking he’d intended to throw the ball at a Blazers player, but he was simply tossing it back to a different referee. As such, his 15th T became his 14th, two away from the 16 that mandate a one-game suspension.

Had that T stuck, and had Bryant been given another against San Antonio on Tuesday, he’d have missed Wednesday’s game in the state capitol. Had he been T’d up in that Kings game, he’d have missed the first game of 2011-12.

Now, Bryant would either have to pick up one in each game, or be tossed with two in one contest (don’t bet on it).

Lakers – Thunder Postgame Numbers

We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s 120-106 the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the Lakers lost for the fifth straight time.

0 Games ahead of Dallas in the Western standings, the Lakers drawing even with the Mavs, who won earlier against Phoenix. The Lakers do have the tiebreaker, however, and controlled their own destiny with two games left and the No. 2 seed still theirs to lose.

1 Lakers turnover in the first three quarters.

9 Lakers turnovers in the fourth quarter, certainly a deciding factor in the game.

31 Points for Kobe Bryant, his first time above 30 in April. He made 10-of-19 FG’s and 9-of-10 FT’s, but struggled in the final three minutes.

35 Free throw attempts for the Thunder, including six in the final minute with the game already over (all three fouls on Ron Artest). OKC made 32, for a 91.4% success rate.

55.6 OKC’s shooting percentage in the game, paced by Kevin Durant’s 11-of-15 for 31 points to match Bryant.

66 First half points for the Thunder, the most L.A. has conceded all season.

L.A. 104, OKC 120: April 10 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to snap a four-game losing streak, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

FIRST QUARTER
7:41 Despite shooting mostly jumpers, the Thunder barely missed in the opening four minutes, connecting on 7-of-8 shots to open a 15-11 lead. Even Kendrick Perkins hit an elbow jumper when L.A. refused to guard him for a good four seconds, despite the lowest trajectory in the history of jump shots. Meanwhile, L.A. had made only 3-of-8 shots, the effort there but the rhythm not just yet after four straight losses due mostly to that lack of full intensity.

5:45 Phil Jackson often calls plays for Gasol out of time outs, as he did to create a 1-on-1 for the Spaniard on Perkins (who was a big part of the pregame discussion due to his comments calling Gasol “soft”), which Gasol used to drop a lefty hook over the former Celtic. He’d score again on the next possession, but L.A. still trailed by 10 due to OKC’s continued hot shooting (11-of-15), including Durant’s 5-of-6.

0:02.7 Two free throws from Matt Barnes allowed L.A. to leave the first down only five points despite the Thunder shooting the lights out at 67 percent (14-of-22), to L.A.’s 47 percent (9-of-19). Much of the Lakers’ work came at the foul line, as they converted 12-of-14.

SECOND QUARTER
7:20 OKC’s shooting didn’t slow to start the second, getting its lead back to 10 at 49-39, while some players on L.A.’s second unit continued to struggle, namely Shannon Brown (whom, in related news, Jackson said simply hasn’t been playing well for a period of weeks). A few mistakes on defense saw Jackson remove Brown in favor of Luke Walton with 9:20 left in the period, and Walton promptly found Bynum for a dunk under the rim.

5:11 Perkins, trying to fight L.A.’s entire team, got locked up with Bryant until the two received matching fouls and technicals. Bryant responded by hitting a three to cut OKC’s lead to nine, though he would need to avoid getting another T in the season in order not to receive a suspension either this season (if he gets a tech vs. San Antonio) or next (if he gets one in the final game against Sacramento). However, Bryant’s 14th T, which happened in Portland on Friday, could still be rescinded by the NBA.

0:00 Apparently it wasn’t a good idea for Perkins on the short term at least, since L.A. went on a 20-10 run to close the half after the extra-curricular activity from Perk. Bryant finished the half with 22 points, hitting his eighth field goal in 11 attempts with 11 seconds left, while Gasol added 18 points himself on 7-of-9 shooting.

THIRD QUARTER
9:17 After a productive first half on offense, L.A. couldn’t make a thing to start the second, going 0-for-6 as the Thunder re-opened an 8-point lead. Jackson called an early time out to talk things over, though two of the misses were a block at the rim and missed layup from Bryant, thanks to a helping Serge Ibaka.

7:45 Well, that worked. Out of the time out, Artest converted a layup, Fisher a transition three and Gasol a powerful dunk to cut OKC’s lead back to one. He’d add two free throws on the next possession to match Bryant’s 22 points.

2:23 OKC went on an 8-0 run after L.A. took its first lead, only to see the Lakers respond with a 10-0 burst of their own capped by Steve Blake’s second three and two Artest free throws. The Lakers were doing it by taking care of the basketball, committing only one turnover while forcing 11 on OKC, including Artest’s steal that set up his layup. L.A. would close the quarter with a 90-88 lead, committing just one turnover to that point.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:48 Brown, however, committed two TO’s in the next two minutes … it still looked to be a good start to the fourth from L.A.’s struggling bench, but after Blake hit his third three and Odom scored twice, L.A. committed another turnover and missed two more shots while OKC went on a 6-0 run, taking the lead back.

3:10 A real tough and-1 layup through contact from Perkins got Bryant up to 31 points, and the Lakers a 104-103 lead. No. 24 had been terrific all evening. The Thunder, however, answered with a triple from Sefolosha, who hadn’t taken a shot since the first quarter, then got possession back with L.A.’s fifth T.O. of the fourth.

0:00 Yet in the last three minutes, L.A.’s offense suddenly disappeared, Bryant was turning the ball over and missing shots, and OKC ran out to a 17-2 finish even if aided by unnecessary fouls in the last minute by Artest (who fouled out) that offered six free points. The dagger came with 40.4 seconds left, Westbrook converting an and-1 three-pointer to open a 113-104 margin that would finish at 120-106.

Lakers 86, Blazers 93: April 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at Portland, the Lakers looking to halt a three-game losing streak, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Blazers: A. Miller, W. Matthews, N. Batum, G. Wallace, L. Aldridge

FIRST QUARTER
10:00 A 3-for-3 opening for the Lakers was similar to the team’s start in Golden State, and it came despite not exploiting one of the biggest matchup advantages we’ve seen all year, with Nic Batum guarding Gasol. Instead, Bryant and Fisher hit jumpers, and Fish found Bynum for a one-handed alley-oop in which Bynum seemed to keep going up and up.

5:00 L.A. controlled the early minutes, but Portland’s small ball started to work as the quarter went on, with three of their six field goals coming on transition layups. The Blazers were also running a lot of actions to get Gasol isolated on the perimeter against the smaller, quicker Gerald Wallace or Nic Batum, while L.A. had only found the Spaniard once before his tip in put L.A. up 14-13.

0:00 A potential buzzer-beating jumper from Blazer sub Patty Mills was waived off, meaning Gasol’s put-back layup was the final bucket of a 21-all period. L.A.’s main problem: Portland added a few more layups to reach 10 fastbreak points.

SECOND QUARTER
9:51 A quiet 3:38 in the first quarter from Lamar Odom turned quickly in the second, as he scored twice at the rim, hit 1-of-2 free throws, grabbed three boards and blocked a shot while putting L.A. up 29-24. Even more notably, Phil Jackson started Gasol with the subs instead of Bynum, which hasn’t been the case for a while. L.A.’s coaches hadn’t been happy with how the second unit was playing offensively, and Gasol appeared to be the easy answer.

3:03 The next rotation experiment included Bryant and Bynum’s re-entrance, and the pairing didn’t work too well as the second continued. Portland hit four triples, climbed up to 16 fastbreak points and went on a 10-0 run that produced a 45-33 lead before Bryant’s baseline dunk. Kobe had been short on his jumper (2-for-6), but more than anything else, Portland was treating it like a playoff game and L.A. was not. We’ve seen that several times before in Oregon, of course.

0:00 With everything going wrong, Bryant began to absolutely bomb away from three-point range, dropping four consecutive triples to suddenly reach 18 points and bring L.A. within six at the half. He had been short on his early attempts before being perfect from 24-28 feet.

THIRD QUARTER
9:26 Whether or not the Lakers made some simple corrections that could have helped (getting back in transition, rotating on D, moving the ball and establishing position inside), the energy just wasn’t there. The Spurs had clinched the top spot out West, of course, but L.A. was up just one game in the loss column on Boston and Miami, and two on the Mavericks.

5:38 The wheels came off almost entirely in the third, L.A. making only 1-of-11 field goals while watching the Blazers throw down alley-oop dunks at the other end, a 72-50 lead resulting from Portland’s 19-3 start to the half. Portland was playing to avoid the Lakers in the first round by getting up to the sixth seed, currently held by New Orleans (who has the tiebreaker over the Blaze).

0:00 Finally, the energy tables turned, with L.A.’s Blake, Brown, Barnes and Odom sparking a 12-0 run to close the third, cutting Portland’s 24-point lead in half. Portland missed nine straight shots, and the Lakers scored in transition at the other end … or, basically, the inverse of the second quarter. Alas, 74-62, L.A. back in the battle.

FOURTH QUARTER
6:23 Gasol got clocked on the head by Roy, and Artest knocked around on a put-back attempt, but physical play had been allowed in the paint all night, with no calls being made … much to Gasol’s displeasure. Artest, meanwhile, was really getting into it with Gerald Wallace, mutual physical play resulting in matching technical fouls, and Bryant added a tech himself, though one almost sure to be rescinded as he was simply throwing the ball back to the official. Ref Violet Palmer thought he was throwing it at a Blazer.

5:11 Oh yeah … there was still a game going on, and L.A.’s group of mostly starters was still really struggling to score. Just five points in the period even after Odom’s three-pointer, L.A. trailing 82-67.

3:44 Wallace reacted to the chest-bumping with Artest by missing his next four shots, while Artest hit back-to-back threes to cut Portland’s lead under 10 for the first time in the half at 82-73. They’d get as close as seven on Bryant’s footwork-created bucket near the hoop, but a Batum three with 1:47 left was the dagger, restoring the lead to 10. L.A., just begging for the playoffs to start, would lose a fourth straight game. Your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
9 Blazers turnovers in a well-controlled game for the home team until the fourth quarter, when they committed five of those T.O.’s.

12 Points scored by Kobe Bryant in a two-minute stretch of the second quarter, all on three-pointers. He scored 12 points total during his other 20 minutes of playing time.

13 Rebounds for Pau Gasol, with a stomach-virus ridden Andrew Bynum managing just six in his 32 minutes. Bynum had grabbed 23 and 17 in L.A.’s last two games.

20 Fastbreak points scored by the Blazers, L.A. failing to get back in transition repeatedly.

29 Shooting percentage for the Lakers in a second half in which they scored just 36 points.

Bryant’s Minutes (Significantly) Down

Last April, Kobe Bryant averaged 39 minutes and 23 seconds per game despite battling various ailments that forced him to miss four of the team’s final five games.

He averaged 39:00 minutes in March, 40:12 in February and 38:47 for the season, which was the seventh most in the entire NBA.

But this year, Bryant is playing only 33:53, by far his fewest minutes since his second NBA campaign back in 1997-98 (26:00). He’s not even in the top 50 in the league, yet still ranks sixth in scoring (25.1 points per game).

Phil Jackson acknowledged prior to the team’s Friday evening game in Portland that this is no accident, as the season splits suggest.

The most minutes Bryant has played in any month were his 36:12 in February. He also played 34:00 in January, but has otherwise been between 32:17 (December) and 33:47 (November). Of late, he’s been down to 33:42 in March and 33:30 in April. Bryant has not spent a lot of time on the practice court throughout the season, and has been as diligent (read: maniacal) as ever with his rehabilitation and preventative work, all designed to have him in the best shape possible for the playoffs.

All of this good news for the Lakers.

Lakers Among the Numbers Leaders

The Lakers have had pretty well-balanced contributions across most of the major statistical categories this season, with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum finding themselves amongst NBA leaders in a multitude of areas.

We took a look at their respective places among the league’s best scorers, passers, rebounders, shooters, shot blockers and most efficient players:

NBA SCORING LEADERS:
1) Kevin Durant: 27.8
2) LeBron James: 26.6
3) Dwyane Wade: 25.7
4) Amare Stoudemire: 25.5
5) Carmelo Anthony: 25.5
6) Kobe Bryant: 25.1
22) Pau Gasol: 18.9

Note: Of the top 10 scorers, Bryant (33.9 minutes) and Kevin Martin (23.5 points in 32.4 minutes) are the only players that don’t rank in the NBA’s Top 50 in minutes played. As such, Bryant ranks first in points per 48 minutes at 35.6, with Martin second at 34.8 and Anthony third at 34.2.

NBA ASSIST LEADERS:
1) Steve Nash: 11.4
2) Rajon Rondo: 11.3
3) Deron Williams: 10.3
4) Chris Paul: 9.8
5) Jose Calderon: 8.9
31) Kobe Bryant: 4.7
Note: No Laker ranks in the top 20 in part due to the principles of ball movement within Tex Winter and Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, as many players get their hands on the ball each possession, contrary to what Phoenix does with Nash or Boston with Rondo. Also, Bryant operates in isolation sets frequently (or just holds onto the ball), as do Gasol and Bynum and at times Odom, limiting opportunities for assists going to one particular player. That said, the Lakers still average 21.99 dimes per game, with six players notching at least two per game for a total that’s 13th in the NBA.

NBA REBOUNDING LEADERS:
1) Kevin Love: 15.2
2) Dwight Howard: 14.2
3) Zach Randolph: 12.2
4) Blake Griffin: 12.2
5) Kris Humphries: 10.4
6) Pau Gasol: 10.2
10) Andrew Bynum*: 9.5
14) Lamar Odom: 8.7

*Bynum, who missed the team’s first 24 games and two more with a suspension, does not yet have enough boards to qualify.
Note: The Lakers have three players in the top 14 on this chart, while no other team has more than one player. As a team, L.A. ranks third on the glass overall, fourth on offense and sixth on defense. Bryant is the league’s third best rebounding guard at 5.1 per game, after only Dwyane Wade (6.5) and Landry Fields (6.3).

NBA FIELD GOAL % LEADERS:
1) Nene: .614
2) Dwight Howard: .596
3) Emeka Okafor: .579
4) Andrew Bynum: .576
5) Al Horford: .557
6) Marcin Gortat: .556
7) Javale McGee: .549
8) Serge Ibaka: .546
9) Thaddeus Young: .540
10) Lamar Odom: .534
11) Paul Millsap: .531
12) Pau Gasol: .530
Note: The numbers are showing us just how valuable L.A.’s three big men are, all ranking in the league’s top 14 in rebounding and top 12 in field goal percentage. Like on the glass, no other team has more than one player in the top 12.

NBA BLOCKS LEADERS:
1) Andrew Bogut: 2.58
2) Javale McGee: 2.44
3) Dwight Howard: 2.4
4) Serge Ibaka: 2.37
5) Darko Milicic: 2.03
6) Andrew Bynum: 1.96
14) Pau Gasol
: 1.64
Note: A healthy Andrew Bynum, otherwise known as post-All-Star-break Bynum, would rank third in rebounding (13.0), tie for first in field goal percentage (.641) and tie for third in blocks (2.4).

ESPN’S PER LEADERS:
1) LeBron James: 27.22
2) Dwight Howard: 26.19
3) Dwyane Wade:25.70
4) Kevin Love: 24.42
5) Chris Paul: 24.37
6) Kobe Bryant: 23.79
9) Pau Gasol: 23.49
18) Andrew Bynum: 21.66
31) Lamar Odom: 19.55
Note: John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating has three Lakers in the top 20, the only team which can say so, and four in the top 31. The Heat (James and Wade), Thunder (Durant and Russell Westbrook), Knicks (Stoudemire and Anthony) and Spurs (Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili) all have two in the top 20.

Lakers 87, Warriors 95: April 6 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Golden State, the Lakers looking to snap a two-game losing streak, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Warriors: S. Curry, M. Ellis, D. Wright, D. Lee, E. Udoh

FIRST QUARTER
9:10 After a blistering 10-0 start for L.A., Golden State finally got on the scoreboard with a David Lee put back. But make no mistake, this was the Laker team that came out of the break 17-1, not the losers of two straight at home… At least until they started missing shots, failing to hit for eight straight attempts while the Warriors got to within five at 19-14.

1:08 A jumper from Bryant stopped the streak of misses, and he added another to reach 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting to lead all scorers. The Warriors shot the ball horribly, making just 7-of-29 attempts (including Steph Curry’s 0-for-7 line), their 14 total point in the quarter a product mostly of hard work on the offensive glass (seven of their 13 boards).

SECOND QUARTER
9:17 A repeated theme of late has been the inconsistent play of L.A.’s bench, and unfortunately for the Purple and Gold, it continued in Oakland as the Warriors flew out of the second quarter on a 10-0 run, book-ended by Monta Ellis three-pointers, taking a 24-23 lead.

5:56 Struggling to find any semblance of rhythm on offense, the second unit saw Odom and Blake go 0-for-3, Brown 0-for-2 and Barnes 1-for-2, while ignoring Andrew Bynum inside despite his huge size advantage over 6-9 Lou Amundson. Not what Phil Jackson and his staff had in mind, particularly, though L.A. still led by a point after two ‘Drew free throws. Also plaguing L.A. for the third straight game were turnovers. They had 10 already after 20 and 19 in their past two games.

0:00 A horrible offensive quarter for the Lakers produced only 15 points, Odom’s put-back layup just the fourth field goal of the period, with the Warriors scoring at will to reach 29 points in the period to take a 43-38 lead. One bright spot was Bynum’s 13 rebounds in 17 minutes just a night after his career-high 23 boards against Utah.

THIRD QUARTER
7:40 We mentioned the early shooting struggles of the bench, which extended to starters Artest (1-for-5) and Fisher (1-for-6). But bigs Gasol and Bynum had combined to make 10-for-12 shots, L.A. finally starting to force feed it inside as Bryant had yet to attempt a shot. Meanwhile, Curry started to heat up for the Warriors, making three straight shots to give G.S. a 56-50 lead.

3:51 Would a slashing, hanging reverse layup from Bryant, plus the foul, finally get the Lakers going from an energy standpoint? His sixth bucket, and first of the quarter, cut Golden State’s 12-point lead to 63-54. But moments later, the NBA’s leader in three-pointers, Dorell Wright, made his first bomb in six attempts to open the Warriors biggest lead at 67-54.

0:00 Well, we had an answer about whether L.A. would build off Bryant’s tough bucket: No. It was Golden State, instead, flying around to close the quarter with a 72-55 lead. The Lakers knew they had a second season starting in a bit over a week, while Golden State was playing completely loose, the difference in energy being the obvious difference in the game. Since Dallas lost earlier this evening, falling three losses back in the loss column, a loss wouldn’t necessarily affect L.A.’s Western standing. And while Miami also lost (two back in loss column), the Celtics remained just one back, meaning a Warriors win would put L.A. even with Boston.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:11 Since returning from his knee injury, Matt Barnes had struggled to find an offensive rhythm, scoring in double digits only once and failing to score six points in five straight games, albeit with few field goal attempts. But his three-pointer, steal and and-1 in transition produced six points in 20 seconds, getting the Lakers within 13 points.

6:11 The general rule in the NBA is to try and get within 10 points with six minutes to play for a chance to win, and L.A. could have been there as Steve Blake’s three fell short instead of making it a 9-point game. At the other end, Curry’s triple sank home, pushing the Warriors lead right back to 15. Meanwhile, L.A.’s lack of execution could be shown as they had the same number of turnovers and assists (16).

2:01 Not quite dead yet? Bryant went on a personal 10-0 scoring run for the Lakers, cutting Golden State’s lead to eight (90-82), but was it too little, too late?

0:00 Yup. Golden State 95, Lakers 87. A few more opportunities presented themselves, but there wasn’t enough time left to prevent a third straight loss for a team looking tired of regular season basketball. Your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
20 Rebounds averaged by Andrew Bynum in L.A.’s back-to-back. He had 17 against the Warriors, though just two in the second half, after setting his career high with 23 against Utah.

18 Turnovers for the Lakers, who managed just 17 assists, the third straight game in which they failed to register more assists than turnovers. They committed 19 turnovers with 19 assists against Utah, and 20 turnovers with 20 assists against Denver. In related news, all three were losses.

10 Points for Matt Barnes, the second time he’s reached double figures since returning from his knee injury on March 6. Barnes has been a low volume shooter, of course, so points aren’t the focus, but his spark caused Phil Jackson to leave him in during crunch time.

2 Games ahead of Dallas in the West in the race for the No. 2 seed. The Mavs have lost four straight games, the Lakers three, which also dropped L.A. even with the Celtics for potential home court advantage in the Finals.

0 Crunch time minutes for Ron Artest and Pau Gasol, as Jackson went with Barnes and Bynum.

Lakers: NBA’s Best Road Team

Who is the NBA’s best road team?

For much of season, the Dallas Mavericks have held that title, winning a series of early-season games out East and holding stubbornly onto the best record. Phil Jackson even mentioned how well the Mavs have played on the road in his chat prior to L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest in Golden State.

But Mark Cuban’s 110-82 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles preceded back-to-back losses at Portland and Golden State, the three-game losing streak dropping the Mavs’ road record to 27-13.

Which means the league’s new best road team could end up being … the Lakers.

At 26-12 with three games left (at G.S., at Portland and at Sacramento), L.A. has a chance to go 29-12, besting the Mavs, Heat (26-13), Bulls (23-15), Celtics (23-15) and Spurs (25-14).

The Lakers lost at Chicago back on Dec. 10, and to the Heat on March 10, but have won in their most recent trips to Boston (Feb. 10), Dallas (March 12) and San Antonio (March 6). They also have wins at Portland, Oklahoma City and most teams currently in playoff position.

Throughout their last two championship runs, the Lakers have won at least one playoff game against all eight opponents.

NBA League Standings Update: April 6

After coming out of the All-Star break on an extended 17-1 burst, the Lakers (55-22) have floated back down to Earth, losing consecutive home games to Denver and Utah to put the San Antonio Spurs (59-19) all but out of reach with five games to play.

Neither Phil Jackson nor any of his players were willing to fully admit to a focus upon catching the Spurs, who led L.A. by a season-high nine games heading into the All-Star break. The margin slipped to 1.5 games prior to Sunday afternoon’s Lakers loss to the Nuggets due to a six-game S.A. losing streak coinciding with L.A. sandwiching streaks of eight and nine wins around a lone loss at Miami on March 10, but has grown back to 3.5.

Indeed, three games separate the two teams in the loss column with five to play for L.A. and four for the Spurs, meaning San Antonio would not only need to lose to the Lakers on April 12, but also drop a minimum of two games vs. Sacramento, vs. Utah and at Phoenix. Unlikely as that is, if the Lakers win their final five games and finish with the same record as the Spurs, the Lakers would in fact own the tiebreaker since that potential situation would give L.A. a better record in its division and conference.

While securing home court advantage against the Spurs out West is a long shot, the Lakers are still two games up in the loss column on third-seeded Dallas (53-24), losers of three straight. In reality, L.A. in more like three games up on the Mavericks thanks to being the Pacific division winner, while the Mavs will come in second to the Spurs in the Southwest. Winning a division while matching records with a team not winning their own is the first tiebreaker, even before the next, head-to-head, which was also won by the Lakers (2-1).

Western Conference Leaders Remaining Schedules:
1) Spurs: vs. Kings, vs. Jazz, @ Lakers, @ Suns
2) Lakers: @ Warriors, @ Blazers, vs. Thunder, vs. Spurs, @ Kings
3) Mavericks: vs. Nuggets, vs. Clippers, vs. Suns, @ Rockets, vs. Hornets

That’s not the only race upon which the Lakers are keeping an eye, as three Eastern Conference teams are going at it themselves, each of the six teams with at least a spare thought on what might happen were they to reach the finals. As it stands, the Lakers would hold the tiebreaker advantage over Boston (54-23), but not Chicago (57-20) or Miami (54-23).

Eastern Conference Leaders Remaining Schedules:
1) Chicago: vs. Boston, @ Cleveland, @ Orlando, @ New York, vs. New Jersey
2) Boston: @ Chicago, vs. Washington, @ Miami, @ Washington, vs. New York
3) Miami: vs. Milwaukee, vs. Charlotte, vs. Boston, @ Atlanta, @ Toronto

The Heat get their tiebreaker on the Lakers thanks to a 2-0 regular season sweep, while Chicago has a better record against the opposing conference (23-7), the next tiebreaker. Boston, on the other hand, went 19-11 against the West, just worse than L.A.’s 21-9 in the East.

The beauty of all of this? It can change daily, starting with L.A.’s Wednesday game at Golden State.