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2011 NBA Playoff Picture: Can The Lakers Catch The Spurs?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been on fire since the All-Star break, and have used their run to put themselves in the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming NBA playoffs. But, given the recent struggles of San Antonio, can the Lakers catch the top-seed Spurs? The Lakers have won 15 of 16 games since the break, and have their biggest game this week.

First off, the Lakers need to secure the No. 2 seed. The Lakers are 53-20, one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks with nine games remaining. The Lakers host the Mavericks at Staples Center on Thursday, in a game that will decide the tiebreaker between the two teams. Los Angeles has split two games with Dallas this season, so the winner of that game will win the season series, and have the inside track at home court advantage in an inevitable second round matchup in the NBA playoffs.

But, the No. 1 seed might be reachable as well. The Spurs are currently without Tim Duncan with a sprained left ankle, and have lost three straight games. Their once insurmountable lead over the Lakers is now four games, which is still a lot, but not out of the realm of possibility with nine games remaining. The Lakers host the Spurs on April 12, the penultimate game of the season for both teams.

Here's a look at the remaining schedule for all three teams at the top of the Western Conference:

  • Spurs (57-16): five home games, four road games; four games against playoff teams
  • Lakers (53-20): five home games, four road games; five games against playoff teams
  • Mavericks (52-21): four home games, five road games; four game against playoff teams

To catch the Spurs, it seems the Lakers have to win out and get some help. However, that doesn't seem all that unlikely.

For more Lakers news and information, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.