Easy Street

Having drawn even with Phoenix for the Pacific lead and within a game of New Orleans for the best record in the Western Conference, the Lakers have a yawning opportunity to jump to the head of the class in the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

They begin a nine-game stretch on Saturday against the Clippers in which they’ll play just one team that would be in the playoffs if they begin now — Dallas. The others are home-and-away with the Clippers, Portland and Sacramento, at Seattle, and Miami.[ep

Meanwhile, Phoenix and New Orleans won’t have it easy. The Hornets play smokin’ hot Houston tonight, then San Antonio, Washington, Phoenix, Utah, Washington — all playoff teams. And the Suns play Boston tonight, then Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans.

So, it’s a good opportunity for the Lakers to put some distance between themselves and the Hornets and Suns. Of course, in the West, you always have to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror. San Antonio is a half-game behind and as hot as the Lakers are, they’re only four games ahead of ninth-place Golden State.

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