The Los Angeles Lakers are hot on the trail of the No. 1 seed in the 2011 Western Conference playoffs. This is the hottest team in basketball, and while the Lakers keep on winning games, the San Antonio Spurs can’t seem to win anymore. This combination of fortunes has put the top two seeds in the Western Conference in question, and suddenly there is a serious race for the top spot.
Coming into Friday night’s games, the Spurs held a 2 1/2 game lead over the Lakers for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Both teams were on the road, and both games were quite closer early, but at the end of the night this could be the beginning of a nightmare for Spurs fans. First the Spurs couldn’t close the deal against the Houston Rockets, and then some key miscues in overtime led to yet another loss. Then the Lakers overcame an early deficit against the Utah Jazz to post another win. Both results have become quite familiar to any NBA fan.
The Spurs have now lost their last six straight games as well as seven of the last 10. This is the first time a team with Tim Duncan has ever lost six straight games, but on Thursday we were talking about how it was the first time they had lost five straight. Now they are treading into new territory for Duncan, and it’s hard to figure out when or where this team is going to turn things around. They certainly have the “injury excuse” to fall back on if they keep losing games, but with nearly everyone healthy again, it might not go over well with any supporters of the team this year.
On the other side of the coin are the Lakers, who are the hottest team in the NBA. They have the best record since the All-Star Game (only one loss) and have won nine straight games. Suddenly the insurmountable lead that the Spurs had put together in the West has crumbled.
It had looked like the Spurs were going to simply run away with the West, and that the No. 2 seed was the best that anyone else could hope for. The Dallas Mavericks shot up into that slot for a brief time, but now it is owned by the Lakers. They have greater aspirations though, as they now trail the Spurs by just 1 1/2 games (one game in the loss column). You certainly won’t hear anyone saying that the Lakers are too old after this streak comes to an end.
Want to talk about excitement? The Spurs will host the Lakers on April 12 in their second-to-last game of the year. Home court advantage throughout the playoffs could be on the line in that game, and TNT will have the full coverage.