San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

The San Antonio Spurs travel to the Staples Center on Sunday to take on a Los Angeles Lakers team still barely clinging on to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. But for the first time all season, the Lakers' quest for a postseason appearance no longer feels all that important.

By now, everybody in Los Angeles has spent their past half-day voraciously reading every update on the status of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers guard was injured late in the 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday, and by all accounts the prognosis is season-ending and may alter the 2013-14 campaign as well. 

According to Mike Trudell of, the team fears Bryant has suffered a torn Achilles tendon:

It's a fear Bryant all but confirmed after the game, per the team's official Twitter feed:

With two games remaining in the regular season for the Lakers, it goes without saying this injury is devastating. Bryant is not only the face of the entire franchise, but also the team's most important player by a country mile. Without him, the looming Utah Jazz are closer in the rearview mirror than ever before.  

The Spurs know a little bit about surviving despite a critical injury. Sixth man Manu Ginobili has missed all but three minutes of San Antonio's past eight games with a hamstring injury. The 35-year-old guard has left the Spurs' bench somewhat listless offensively, and they are only 4-4 over the aforementioned stretch.

San Antonio's recent struggles could have implications on both teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder have opened up a half-game lead on the Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference, and they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. With just three games remaining, the Spurs may need to capture all three to take the conference's top spot. 

And with the Lakers still perched in the No. 8 spot, whichever team ultimately pulls out that top seed may face a Bry...

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