The Los Angeles Lakers sat idle on Friday night, forced to watch the Western Conference playoff spot they have been working so hard to secure slip away as the Utah Jazz rallied to beat the Portland Trail Blazers.
While the Jazz and Lakers are technically tied with identical 37-36 records, the early-season sins of the Lakers continue to haunt as the Jazz won the season series (2-1) thanks to a pair of wins in early November and December.
Both teams are in action on Saturday night as the Lakers visit the Sacramento Kings and the Jazz host the Brooklyn Nets. Utah plays current playoff teams in six of their remaining nine games, while the Lakers have five games left against playoff teams.
Meanwhile, in the battle for home court advantage in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers fell victim to Tim Duncan and the Spurs and dropped behind the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. The Nuggets had a drama-free win over the Brooklyn Nets as they continue playing like an elite contender down the stretch.
Both teams are even in the loss column but the Clippers have nine games remaining compared to Denver's eight. That will even up after tonight when the Clippers visit the Houston Rockets for another challenging road game.
Despite their recent struggles, Memphis continues lurking in fifth place just a half game behind the Clippers and one game behind the Nuggets. Two of these three teams will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs, so the battle for position in the standings remains critical as the regular season draws to a close.
Here is a look at the full Western Conference standings:
|San Antonio Spurs||72||55-17||.764|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||73||53-20||.726|
|Los Angeles Clippers||73||49-24||.671|
|Golden State Warriors||73||41-32||.562|
|Los Angeles Lakers||73||37-36||.507|
|Portland Trail Blazers||72||33-39||.458|
|New Orleans Hornets||73||25-48||.342|