The Lakers muscled through two must-win games in a row against a pair of sub-.500 teams (New Orleans and Toronto) but at this stretch of the season, style points are meaningless.

What's important is the Lakers (32-31) gained a full game Friday on both the Utah Jazz (32-30) and Golden State Warriors (35-28). The Houston Rockets (34-29) won in Oakland to stay two games ahead of the Lakers.

The eighth-place Jazz are vulnerable, but only if the Lakers keep winning. Utah owns the tie-breaker, meaning their half-game lead over the Lakers is functionally 1 1/2. Utah still has to play games in New York, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland, Golden State, Minnesota and Memphis.