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2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Lakers, Mavericks Battling For No. 2 Seed In West

The Los Angeles Lakers have parlayed a post All-Star break hot streak into the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference in the upcoming NBA playoffs. Since the break, the Lakers are 12-1, including wins in their last four games. Currently, the Lakers are 50-20, one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for the coveted two spot in the West, with just 12 games remaining.

With the No. 2 seed comes home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, which seems destined for a Lakers vs. Mavericks showdown. The Spurs are comfortably secure in the top spot, at 56-13, unlikely to give back a seven-game advantage with 13 games left. Meanwhile, the No. 4 Thunder lost Sunday night, and are 45-24. The Lakers hold a four-game advantage over Oklahoma City and the tiebreaker, as the Lakers have defeated the Thunder twice already this season.

Which leaves the Lakers and Maverics destined for their first playoff battle since the 1988 Western Conference Finals, fighting it out for home court advantage. March 31 will do a lot to help decide this battle, as the Lakers host Dallas at Staples Center. The teams have split two games this season, so the winner of that game will own the tiebreaker should the two teams end up with the same regular season record.

The Lakers will play eight of their final 12 games at home, compared to just Dallas plays just five games at home and seven on the road. The Lakers have six games remaining against teams currently in position to make the playoffs, while the Mavericks play four such games. That March 31 game looks like the most important remaining game on the Lakers' schedule.

For more Lakers news and information, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.