With the Lakers' fourth loss in a row on Friday, a 105-103 defeat to the Jazz in Utah, the Lakers have dropped to 12th place in the Western Conference.
At 13-17, the Lakers are still 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Dallas Mavericks (16-13), but the margin for error in the West is very thin.
The Lakers still have a lot of season left (52 games) but they'll need to outperform the Denver Nuggets (14-14), Minnesota Timberwolves (14-15), New Orleans Pelicans (13-14) and Mavericks -- while holding off the 13th-place Memphis Grizzlies (12-16).
Injuries have played a major part in the Lakers' stumbles. Pau Gasol (upper respiratory tract infection) missed the game in Utah, as did Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Blake (elbow) and Steve Nash (back).
After playing seven of their last nine on the road, the Lakers get a home-heavy stretch with games against the Philadelphia 76ers (8-20), Milwaukee Bucks (6-23), Jazz (9-23) and Nuggets (14-14) at Staples Center.
If the Lakers can sweep the four-game homestand, they'll find themselves back at .500 in time for a difficult stretch with 10 of 11 on the road.
A slump now could send the Lakers into a tailspin in a very competitive conference.
That's either a very bad thing for a franchise expecting, and expected, to win, or a very good thing with a talented crop of young players likely to come out in the NBA's June draft.
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