Assessing Lakers' playoff hopes

Here come the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a schedule loss Monday, when the NBA shipped them to Denver to play a challenging opponent at altitude in the second game of a back-to-back, the Lakers have won 11 of their past 16 games. With wins at home over Minnesota and Atlanta in their next two games, the Lakers can get to .500 for the first time since New Year's Day. Now, Kobe Bryant can talk about a playoff run with his usual confidence.

"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will," Bryant told Sports Illustrated last week. "And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."