Huge playoff implications are on the line Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Staples Center.
The Lakers are one-half game behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Dallas is two behind Utah and 1 1/2 games in back of the Lakers.
"They're playing well, playing hard. They're desperate, like we are," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "They've got a lot of veteran players. They know how to play. They're a dangerous team right now."
Dallas has won four of its last five to threaten for that final spot. And the importance of Tuesday's tilt is not lost on the Mavericks.
"We've had must-win games since January," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. "We have to throw the kitchen sink at everybody on this trip. This next game is the biggest right now. There's no need to overstate the obvious -- we need to win every game that we can win. That's where we're at."
The Mavericks begin a four-game western trip on Tuesday. They head to Denver, Sacramento and Portland after the stop in Los Angeles.
The Lakers may be without a huge piece on Tuesday night. Point guard Steve Nash has an assortment of injuries and is listed as doubtful for the bout with his old team.
Although Nash's coach didn't completely shut the door on Nash playing.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow," D'Antoni said of Nash after practice on Monday.
The Lakers' most recent victory came Saturday against the Sacramento Kings.
In that win, Kobe Bryant, who is battling bone spurs in his foot, scored 19 points and moved past Wilt Chamberlain into fourth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
"I have nothing but praise for him obviously," Bryant said on passing Chamberlain. "To pass him up is a huge honor to say the least."
Bryant, who sat out just 23 seconds of the Kings game, was one rebound shy of a triple-double with 19 points and 14 assists. Dwight Howard had 24 points and 15 rebounds, while Pau Gasol notched 12 points and 10 assists.
The Lakers will honor Shaquille O'Neal on Tuesday night when his No. 34 is retired at the Staples Center.
Dallas completed a 4-2 homestand on Saturday with a two-point victory over the Chicago Bulls. Dirk Nowitzki netted 35 points on 14-for-17 shooting and Vince Carter and Brandan Wright each had 17 off the bench.
The Lakers have taken two of three this season against the Mavs, although both victories came in Big D. Dallas toppled the Lakers in L.A. at the very beginning of the season, but has lost eight of its last 10 as the visitor in this series.