This should be a good game considering both teams have something to play for.
Quote: When the Los Angeles Lakers picked up their ninth straight win on the first day of April, it was becoming apparent they - and not the reeling San Antonio Spurs - had emerged as Western Conference favorites.
Five consecutive losses later, that's a title even Phil Jackson can't endorse.
The Lakers look to snap their longest losing streak in four years Tuesday night against the visiting Spurs, who will try for a fifth straight win that would put them a step closer to ensuring home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
San Antonio (61-19) has had the West's best record all season, but from the All-Star break through April 1, Los Angeles had played like the conference's top team.
The Lakers won 17 of 18 - including a 99-83 road rout of the Spurs - to pull to within 1 1/2 games of San Antonio for the West's No. 1 seed, but five straight defeats have erased that possibility. After Sunday's 120-106 home loss to Oklahoma City, Los Angeles could now finish as low as fourth.
"The measure of success is what you've just recently accomplished, it's not what's been accomplished in the past or what we did post All-Star break," Jackson said. "So, for right now we're back into the middle of the pack playing basketball."
The Lakers (55-25) haven't lost this many in a row since a seven-game skid March 2-15, 2007. Perhaps more importantly, though, they've had a total of two three-game slides in their five championship seasons since Kobe Bryant's been in Los Angeles. They've had four alone in 2010-11.
"I think we started to actually look ahead and look above as opposed to just kind of staying in the present," guard Derek Fisher said. "We lost that step and it's tough to get it back when you're playing against professionals. We'll go back to work and get ready to try and win a game on Tuesday night."
Bryant admonished the Lakers for playing "horrible defense" after Sunday's loss, but they've been excellent on that end against the Spurs despite losing two of three. They've held San Antonio to 39.9 percent shooting, though they've shot just 41.7 percent themselves.
Tony Parker has averaged 19.3 points in the series, but Los Angeles has done an outstanding job against Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. Ginobili's been held to 9.7 points per game while shooting 28.2 percent, and Duncan has totaled 12 points and missed 21 of 26 shots in the three games while dealing with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
While the Lakers are struggling, San Antonio has bounced back from six consecutive losses with four victories. It's shot a combined 59.2 percent in the last two, with Richard Jefferson's 20 points leading six double-figure scorers in a 111-102 win over Utah on Saturday.
Two more victories would guarantee the Spurs home-court advantage throughout the postseason, though if they lose once and Chicago wins out, it'll come down to a random draw.
Still, San Antonio seems as concerned with staying healthy as the league's best record.
"We've played this well all season long. We'd love to finish at the top of the NBA," Duncan. "We're going to try to do the best of managing minutes, winning games and all that stuff ... at the same time, so we'll see what happens."
The Spurs have been sharing the ball lately, averaging 24.3 assists in the four straight wins - 6.3 more than during the six-game skid.
When San Antonio has at least 22 assists, it's 42-1.
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