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Preview: Lakers at Wizards

December 14, 2012|By Eric Pincus

If there's a rock bottom for the Lakers to hit, Friday night in Washington would certainly qualify.

The Lakers (9-14), losers of four straight, will visit the Wizards (3-16), who are currently dead last in the NBA. After a taxing loss in New York on Thursday against the Knicks, the Lakers will have to muster enough energy to beat a vulnerable but desperate Washington team.

The Wizards have yet to play John Wall (knee) and recently lost his temporary replacement, A.J. Price, to a broken hand. Trevor Ariza is also out with a calf injury. The Lakers are still without Pau Gasol (knees), Steve Nash (leg) and Steve Blake (abdominal surgery).

Halfway through the team's four-game road trip, the Lakers need a win in Washington ... badly

Key matchup

Friday night will be a battle against the first and second picks of the 2004 NBA draft. Dwight Howard was the top pick taken by the Orlando Magic. He'll battle Emeka Okafor, who was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Okafor has started 17 games, averaging 7.3 points and 5.4 blocks on the season. Although those statistics may not be especially impressive, Okafor may be the Wizards' best chance at slowing Howard.

Then again, the back-to-back on the road may be difficult for the Lakers center, who is still looking to build up his stamina after offseason back surgery.

X-factor

With the Wizards struggling for scoring, guard Jordan Crawford can put up big numbers for Washington. The combo guard has been pressed into service at the point with Wall and Price out.

Crawford is the guy the Lakers need to take out of the picture defensively.

The Lakers have been playing Jodie Meeks in a similar role, replacing Darius Morris' minutes behind Chris Duhon. In addition to Meeks' outside shooting, the Lakers just need to play some semblance of defense on Friday night to get a win.

Outlook

The Lakers are a tired, beaten-down mess. So are the Wizards, but Washington is at home and hungry.

There's no question the Lakers "should" leave with a victory, but based on recent performance, is there any real reason to expect a win on any given night?

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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