Two Western Conference playoff teams will try to improve their standings Monday night when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors are sixth in the West and just a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets. The Lakers are eighth, but three behind Houston and two ahead of both the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks.
For the Lakers, while they seem pretty safely in the postseason, they expected two huge returns to pay huge dividends.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol both came back to the lineup on Friday night, a home game against the Washington Wizards. Bryant missed just a few games with a sprained ankle, while Gasol was shelved for weeks with a foot issue.
The two All Stars, NBA Champions and future Hall of Famers returned to the Staples Center together, and lost together.
The Wizards knocked off the Lakers 103-100 after L.A. squandered an 18-point lead.
"What happened was we didn't play hard enough. We think we can just figure stuff out," said coach Mike D'Antoni. "We'll talk about it and try to change it around but we have got to have some effort out there."
Bryant scored 21 in his return, while Gasol only had four in much less time. Dwight Howard chipped in 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The Warriors met the Wizards the very next night and topped Washington 101-92. Golden State took an 18-point lead into halftime and hung on over the final two frames.
Steph Curry was magnificent once again with 35 points and eight assists. Troubling sight though, as Curry rolled his often-injured right ankle in the fourth and left the game.
"I'm fine," Curry said. "Don't worry about my ankle. It's just another episode. I'll get through it like I always do.
"You got to be smart at this point in the season. You can't try to fight through something if it's not ready because we have a big section of the season coming up."
Head coach Mark Jackson said everyone was healthy at practice, although Curry is listed as questionable for Monday night.
The Warriors have won three out of four and five of their last seven. The Washington game on Saturday started a five-game homestand for Golden State, which has eight of its last 11 games at Oracle Arena.
The Lakers have beaten the Warriors six straight times and 18 of their last 19. L.A. has taken 13 of 15 on the road in this series.