The Lakers (41-37) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (33-44) on Wednesday night in what is their final chance to win on back-to-back nights in 16 tries.
With the Utah Jazz losing on Tuesday, the Lakers will make the playoffs if they win their remaining four games, starting with the Blazers.
Portland has lost eight straight. They’re out of the playoffs and struggling with injuries that might keep Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson out of the lineup.
Steve Nash is doubtful for L.A. It was in Portland, on the second day of the season, where Nash initially fractured his leg -- knocking him out for months.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard will be named rookie of the year. He is averaging 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
The Lakers often struggle against dribble penetration and Lillard can be a nightmare to contain. Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Kobe Bryant are likely to get the call on defense.
Offensively, Bryant has carried the Lakers from the perimeter both as scorer and playmaker. His minute workload has been extreme. After scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, will he have the legs on Wednesday?
The Blazers are going to rely on All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge in the post. He’s a 21.1-points-a-game scorer and a very tough cover.
If there’s a true X-factor for the Blazers, playing with a skeleton crew, it’s Will Barton, who scored 22 points with 13 rebounds and six assists in the Blazers’ recent loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Pau Gasol will draw Aldridge. Gasol has been an offensive force for the Lakers over the last couple of weeks. Earl Clark (and possibly Antawn Jamison) will also get time on Aldridge as well.
When Clark has a big game, the Lakers are a lot harder to defend. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been trying to find minutes for Clark at either forward position.
The Lakers get their first back-to-back and stay ahead of Utah in the standings.