The streaking Lakers are closing the gap on the struggling Spurs in the battle for the first seed in the playoffs.

It seemed implausible for the Spurs to lose control of the top seed in the Western Conference just two weeks ago, but as the team has slipped, the Lakers have surged.

Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have 16 wins in 17 games, and have won eight in a row.

A left-ankle sprain to Tim Duncan that sideline him for four games, along with injuries to other key players, has been a major set back. San Antonio has lost five games in a row, but Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker were active for Thursday's home loss to the Celtics.

Tonight, the Spurs face the Rockets in Houston, while the Lakers face the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Rockets have been strong at home, and the Jazz have lost six games in a row.

Only two and a half games currently separate the Spurs from the Lakers.

Suddenly, an April 12th meeting between the Lakers and Spurs may have more far-reaching effects than previously expected. Both teams would love to end the season with home-court advantage going into the playoffs, and that game may decide who wins the top spot.

Kobe Bryant has been particularly strong over the past four games. He has had scoring nights of 28, 30, 37, and 42 -- well above his scoring average this season.

The Spurs could use a boost from Richard Jefferson. The starting small forward has averaged a field-goal shooting percentage of just 41.5 over the past five games.

The Lakers have eight games remaining for the season, while the Spurs have seven.