The Los Angeles Lakers know they won’t be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but a recent slump has kept them from locking up the No. 2 spot.
The Lakers will try to avoid their fourth straight loss Friday night when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers, looking to complete a season sweep for the first time in 22 years.
With four games remaining, Los Angeles (55-23) has a two-game lead over Dallas for the second seed in the West. Despite their current skid, the Lakers have maintained that lead because the Mavericks have dropped four in a row.
Los Angeles was eliminated from contention for the No. 1 seed after a 95-87 loss to Golden State on Wednesday. The Lakers had 17 turnovers and were held to 90 or fewer points for the third straight game.
“We looked a little heavy, a little sluggish,” said Kobe Bryant(notes), who scored 25 points. “We looked a little fatigued. Guys have to really take care of their bodies and get rest when they need to and get re-energized a little bit.”
The Lakers have shot 41.2 percent in the last three games while connecting on only 22.8 percent of their 3-pointers. They’re also averaging 18.7 turnovers - more than five above their season average.
Those numbers alarm coach Phil Jackson as the poor performances continue to mount with the playoffs approaching.
“I’m really concerned about the way we were shooting the basketball,” Jackson said. “We need to start playing in rhythm.”
A loss Friday would match Los Angeles’ longest losing streak of the season, set Nov. 26-Dec. 1—the team’s first since the 2006-07 season.
Depending on the results over the next week, the Lakers could end up facing the Trail Blazers (46-33) in the first round of the playoffs. Portland is in sixth place after a 98-87 win over Utah on Thursday, moving one-half game ahead of New Orleans and 1 1/2 in front of Memphis.
The Lakers have won three meetings against the Blazers and are trying for their first season sweep since 1988-89. They’ve won their last two visits to the Rose Garden after losing 22 of 26.
Despite his team’s lack of success there, Bryant has scored at least 32 points in his last three visits to Portland and is averaging 34.1 points his last 14 games there.
The Blazers picked up their third win in four games with Thursday’s victory. Gerald Wallace(notes) scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half as he continues to get more acclimated to the offense, and Nicolas Batum(notes) added 21.
Wallace has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games, averaging 20.1 points on 54.4 percent shooting. The Blazers are 13-8 with him in the lineup since he was acquired from Charlotte on Feb. 24.
The Lakers were the last team to hold Wallace to single figures, limiting him to nine points in an 84-80 victory March 20.