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Lakers lose to Trail Blazers, fall into seventh place in Western Conference

Never too high, never too low, coach Frank Vogel has navigated the Lakers through a wild two seasons with a consistent calm, his true emotions mostly guarded.

“This is a tiebreaker game,” he said before Friday night’s game at Portland. “It counts twice.”

The stakes are unusually high, the Lakers not only playing for seeding but for security. Stay in sixth place in the Western Conference and you’re guaranteed a crack at defending your NBA title in the playoffs. Slip to seventh and two straight losses means it’s all over before the title defense even gets started.