Kobe Bryant optimistic in final stretch

EL SEGUNDO, Calf. -- Kobe Bryant isn’t used to scoreboard watching this time of year. He isn’t used to having his playoff destiny rest in the hands of another team. But with five games left in the regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers, that’s exactly the position he’s in.

The Utah Jazz are half a game up on the Lakers and hold the tiebreaker, with four games left in their season. If the Jazz go 3-1, the Lakers would need to win their final five games to make the playoffs.

“Unless Utah goes belly up, too,” Bryant said. “You don't know what the hell is going to happen.”

Bryant smiled when he was told the Lakers have yet to put five good games together all season.

“We've put four (together),” Bryant said. “We've put four. The way I figure, you put four together, and there's no way we're losing the last game. There's just no way. So we'll put four together, and deal with the last one when we get there.”

The Lakers have their final back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday. They will play the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center, then travel to play the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers haven’t swept a back-to-back this season and have made a habit of losing to Portland for years. Both trends will have to change if the Lakers are going to make the playoffs.

“We have to get it cracking a little bit,” Bryant said. “It’s a good time to start. We’ll just think about tomorrow and think about Portland when we get there. We just have to play better but we’ve been playing pretty well.”