Phil Jackson: Lakers' road trip key

LOS ANGELES -- When Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson takes a look at the NBA standings, two things come immediately to mind.

One, the Lakers will play both of the teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings on their upcoming four-game road trip -- Sunday against first-place San Antonio to start the trip and March 12 against second-place Dallas to end the trip.

And two, including Friday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats, there are only 20 games remaining in the Lakers' regular-season schedule.

"We're starting to look at the season," Jackson said Friday. "Most every team is underneath 20 games [remaining], so you start looking where people are."

In other words, it's time for the Lakers to make their move on the road to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs unless they want to be playing on the road in the later rounds of the postseason.

"This trip is really like a make-or-break point of the season for us," Jackson said before the Bobcats game. "If we play really well on this road trip, we have a chance to do things. If we don't, we'll settle in and assume that we're fighting for either second or third place, hopefully."

Going into Friday, the Lakers trailed the Spurs by 7.5 games and the Mavericks by two games. Los Angeles is 0-2 against San Antonio and 0-1 against Dallas so far this season.

Jackson said he is also paying close attention to the Eastern Conference standings, particularly to third-ranked Chicago. Jackson wants to make sure L.A. stays ahead of Chicago in the overall league standings should the Lakers play the Bulls in the Finals, assuring home-court advantage in that scenario.

"You want those matchups, just in case something happens, to be in your advantage so that you have home court," Jackson said.

If the Lakers have to go on the road come playoff time, Jackson would not fret. The Lakers have the third-best road record in the league with a 22-11 mark away from Staples Center this season.

"I think we're capable of playing well on the road," Jackson said. "We're confident in what we can do. It makes it harder [though]. No doubt about it."

The Lakers' four-game road trip also includes games Tuesday against Atlanta (the No. 5 team in the East) and Thursday against Miami (the No. 2 team in the East).

"It's very important for us to go out here and do what we need to do on this road trip and win these games," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said. "Fortunately, there are not back-to-backs, so we have a day to prepare for each of them. So we really want to win these games, not just for the standings, but to send a message and let everybody know we're here and we're serious."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.