Obviously nothing is set in stone at this point, but Saturday's win over the Mavs in Dallas could potentially be as significant as regular season games get. A loss would have left the Lakers three games back of Dallas in the loss column as both teams try to lock down West's second seed, a gap that while not impossible to close would have been daunting. (Additionally, they stayed ahead of the Heat -- which might come in handy down the road -- and kept Chicago within spitting distance.)
With the win, L.A. now has only one more loss than the Mavs, with another game still to come against Dirk and the Gang. The schedule, with seven straight at home (capped by the aforementioned visit from Dallas on March 31st) turns favorable. Considering how well they're playing, there's every reason to believe the Lakers can snag the two spot, drastically changing the context of any series with Dallas, and the playoffs generally in the process.
History frowns on road teams in the NBA playoffs, particularly those who play multiple series away from home. Saturday's win gives the Lakers a far better opportunity to improve their Threepeat odds by changing the ratio of home to road games the playoffs will require. They still have work to do, but are now in far better position to do it.
As we note in tonight's Lakers Late Night, that the victory came courtesy of big contributions from the supporting cast -- Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, and Pau Gasol shot a combined 16-of-51- makes it that much better. As ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin notes, Andrew Bynum was a monster on both sides of the floor, and his confidence is only growing. Ron Artest was solid. Steve Blake played likely his best game in purple and gold. Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes both chipped in, too.
The only downside: Near the end of the third, Kobe fell awkwardly on his left ankle, turning it in a bad way (metaphorically and literally). He returned in the fourth and after the game seemed more relieved than concerned. However, his status for Monday's game in Orlando is not yet known, and may not be until close to game time. That said, we're talking about Kobe Bryant, for whom "he'll play" is my default position.
All are issues covered in tonight's show, an episode so real, raw, and unscripted you'll note how at the top of the show (in that weird few seconds recording on the file uploaded for the replay but not reaching the live broadcast) I forget the final score. (No wonder the Wizard of Oz wanted to keep people on the other side of the curtain.)