A recent slide has the Los Angeles Lakers in jeopardy of missing the playoffs as the regular season enters its final days.
The Lakers look to avoid their fifth straight loss Sunday in their regular-season home finale against the Seattle SuperSonics, the team Los Angeles beat for its most recent win.
Firmly solidified in the Western Conference playoff race for most of the season, the Lakers (40-40) have dropped eight of their last 10 to fall to seventh and only one-half game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State.
Since the Lakers hold the tiebreaker over each team, they would clinch a playoff spot by beating Seattle and winning at Sacramento on Wednesday in the regular-season finale. Los Angeles also can clinch by winning one of its final two and a loss by either the Clippers or Warriors, who each have three games left.
“I think we have to win both of our last two games, personally,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
The Lakers last win came against the injury-depleted SuperSonics 112-109 on April 6 in Seattle. Their late-season continued Friday with a 93-85 loss at Phoenix.
Kobe Bryant scored 46 points against the Sonics, but had just 17 on 7-for-26 shooting Friday against the Suns as the Lakers shot 39.3 percent for their worst shooting performance in nine games.
“Kobe was not his normal self,” Jackson said. “He didn’t have the energy, it looked like.”
Bryant, who averages an NBA-best 31.3 points, was held to less than 20 points for just the 11th time this season and twice in his last eight games.
“A lot of times for us to win as of late, I’ve got to be on,” Bryant said. “If that shot’s not on, we really struggle to win ball games.”
Los Angeles has won two of three from Seattle and will look to take the season series for the second straight year.
Seattle lost 108-102 at Portland on Saturday to fall into sole possession of last place in the Northwest Division. The Sonics have lost three in a row and seven of eight.
Lewis, who averages 22.5 points and 28.5 in his last four games, is averaging 20.7 points against the Lakers this season, but scored only nine in the teams’ meeting earlier this month.