There is just a month left in the regular season, yet the Los Angeles Lakers are still an outsider looking in on the NBA playoff standings.
The Lakers finally got back to .500 with their thrilling win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, but they quickly fell back under .500 record in the crowded Western Conference.
If the NBA playoffs started today, the Lakers would be three games short of making it in the eighth and final spot in the West. Last night, they lost again, to Oklahoma City, after making it to 30-30 overall and trailing by only a couple of games behind Utah, Houston and Golden State. The Lakers' 122-105 loss on Tuesday night against Oklahoma City is alarming ashad a right elbow injury in the first quarter. (He still ended up with 30 points.)
Utah currently holds the eight-seed in the latest standings, behind Houston in seventh. In sixth is Golden State, just one game ahead of Houston as both play head-to-head on Friday.
Looking at the top of the West, San Antonio holds a two-game lead over Oklahoma City. Denver will look to pull closer to No. 4 Memphis after beating Sacramento Tuesday night. The L.A. Clippers sit at 43-19, two games behind Oklahoma City. Memphis has won eight of nine and is comfortable in the fourth spot.
Although it's not doomsday yet for the Lakers, as they have 21 games remaining, the urgency to start that winning streak is now. The last time the Lakers missed the playoffs was the 2004-05 season. The Lakers have been through a lot this season, with the passing of their iconic owner Jerry Buss, and with issues of coach Mike D'Antoni mishandling stars, and an aging Bryant.
Does it all indicate that the Lakers' heyday is over?
Here are the latest Western Conference standings and playoff picture:
1. San Antonio Spurs 47-14
2. Oklahoma City Thunder 44-16
3. Los Angeles Clippers 43-19
4. Memphis Grizzlies 39-19
5. Denver Nuggets 40-22
6. Golden State Warriors 34-27
7. Houston Rockets 33-28
8. Utah Jazz 32-28
Los Angeles Lakers 30-31
Portland Trail Blazers 28 -31
Dallas Mavericks 26-33
Minnesota Timberwolves 20-37
Phoenix Suns 21-39
New Orleans Hornets 21-39
Sacramento Kings 21-40