The Los Angeles Lakers moved a game closer to the San Antonio Spurs' previously untouchable No. 1 seed in the West bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on Friday. The Lakers beat the Utah Jazz at Staples Center to move to 55-20, while the Spurs lost an overtime thriller to the Houston Rockets to fall to 57-19. It was San Antonio's sixth consecutive loss, the longest skid the franchise has seen since 1997.
That leaves the Lakers just 1.5 games behind the Spurs in the standings. The teams have one game against each other remaining; if the Lakers win out, including that game against San Antonio on April 12, they'd finish 62-20. The Spurs would have to win each of their other five games other than the Lakers match to end with a tied record. If the teams are tied at season's end and the Lakers have won the April 12 game (tying the season series at 2-2), the team with the better conference record would get the No. 1 seed nod. The Lakers have the advantage there, currently 34-11 compared to the Spurs' 35-12.
So essentially, the Spurs must beat the Lakers to control their own destiny. This after leading the race by seven games just a couple weeks ago.
It's an incredible change of course for each team; the Lakers had been fighting with the Dallas Mavericks over the No. 2 seed for so long as the Spurs maintained a scorching pace. It's amazing what a bad losing streak can do when combined with a hot stretch for the chaser.