The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs haven't needed a first-place finish in the Western Conference to win NBA titles in the past, but that certainly doesn't mean they won't be making a strong push for the No. 1 seed.

After securing the Pacific Division title, the Lakers host the Spurs on Sunday in a matchup of teams still in contention for West supremacy.

Los Angeles (55-25) and San Antonio (54-25) have won six of the last eight NBA titles, but each team finished first in the West just once en route to one of its championships during that span - the Lakers in 2000 and the Spurs in 2004.

San Antonio, which won the title after finishing third in the West last season, is one-half game behind the Lakers and New Orleans in the race for the conference's No. 1 seed. Los Angeles has already clinched its first Pacific title in four years.

"It's a pleasant surprise," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant, whose team wasn't expected to be in this position before the season. "It's a testament to our hard work and our unity."

Bryant, a strong candidate to win his first MVP award, had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Lakers to a 107-104 win over New Orleans on Friday night that clinched the division.

"It's good to be No. 1," Bryant said. "This was the first step. We want to take another one Sunday."

Los Angeles is ensured of finishing no lower than third in the West by virtue of its division title, meaning it will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If the Lakers and Hornets finish with the same record, Los Angeles wins the West and home-court at least until the NBA finals because of a better record against conference opponents.

San Antonio does not have a better conference record than New Orleans, which it is also chasing for the Southwest Division title.

But the Spurs will have a tough time catching the Hornets if Manu Ginobili misses any more time. Ginobili, leading San Antonio with 19.6 points per game, missed Friday night's 95-74 win over Seattle due to a mild strain of his left abductor.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that Ginobili is doubtful for Sunday's game, a contest that will likely determine if the team will remain in contention for the No. 1 seed.

"Like most every game in the West (it's) another big challenge," Popovich said. "You don't know what's going to happen in the West. You just have no idea."

San Antonio hurt its playoff position by losing two of three before Friday, averaging 71.7 points in that span. But the Spurs were able to bounce back against the conference-worst SuperSonics, as five players scored in double figures and they led by as many as 24 points.

Sunday's game will be the first of two straight San Antonio will play on the road, where it has won four of its last five. The Spurs will visit Sacramento on Monday night before ending the regular season at home against Utah two days later.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, will be playing the first of its last two regular-season games. The Lakers host the Kings on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles has won two straight and six of its last seven overall, but has dropped two of three against San Antonio this season.


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