LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers have made the NBA Finals in four of the last five seasons. They will need a strong second half, beginning with a home game vs. the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, just to avoid missing the playoffs.
The Lakers exit the All-Star break holding down the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings, just one game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They did receive a positive sign in a 102-95 win over the Utah Jazz on February 15 as star guard Kobe Bryant posted his finest showing since returning from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for 14 games.
Bryant scored 15 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to rally Los Angeles to a big win after a 1-4 road trip.
Bryant also shined in Sunday's All-Star game, scoring 16 points, handing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds in a losing effort for the Western Conference.
The contest marks Celtics point guard Gary Payton's first game against the team he spent last season with. With one steal, Payton will tie Maurice Cheeks for third on the all-time list with 2,310.
Boston has vaulted to the top of the Atlantic Division with six wins in its last eight games, including a 90-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Paul Pierce, who scored nine points in the All-Star Game, led the Celtics with 19 points in Wednesday's win.
The victory gave Boston five wins in its last six home games and the club enters Tuesday's contest with triumphs in three of its last four road games.
The Lakers have won the last three meetings between the rivals.