Nicks forward Carmelo Anthony is blocked in the first half of a loss to the… (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )
The Lakers had a perfect Week 8, winning both games to extend their win streak to four. Both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol returned from injury and the team finally got the chance to see the roster play as designed. Now at 13-14, the Lakers have a chance to climb above .500 by the close of Week 9. All told, the Lakers are still four losses behind the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-8.
The New York Knicks will be a tough challenge on Christmas Day but the visit to Denver to face the Nuggets the following night may be even tougher. The Lakers close the week on Friday, looking to avenge an early-season loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers should win two out of three to finish the week at 15-15.
Dec. 25: New York Knicks
The Lakers visited the Knicks recently, losing 116-107 after the Knicks scored 41 points in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony scored a quick 30 points before going down with a sprained ankle in the third quarter.
Once Anthony was out, the Lakers played a much stronger second half, threatening late. Now the team has Nash and Gasol back in the lineup, which should give the Lakers a better chance against the 20-7 Knicks.
New York has used Anthony at power forward. Could Coach Mike D'Antoni bring Metta World Peace back into the starting lineup to try and check Anthony?
The holiday matchup should be entertaining.
Dec. 26: Denver Nuggets
The Lakers had little trouble dispatching the Nuggets in late November at Staples Center (122-103). Dwight Howard had one of his best games of the year with 28 points and 20 rebounds. Antawn Jamison was the Lakers' leading scorer with 33 while Jodie Meeks went for 21.
Can Howard duplicate that kind of effort on the second night of a back-to-back on the road? Will Jamison even hit the floor now that he's out of the rotation?
Denver has been hot and cold this season but they're a potent, dangerous team. Even though they fell flat in Los Angeles, with players such as Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets will give the Lakers a serious test.
Dec. 28: Portland Trail Blazers
In addition to being the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, the Blazers' Damian Lillard inadvertently changed the fate of the Lakers this season when he and Nash collided in the second game of the season.
Nash wouldn't play for seven weeks, Coach Mike Brown was fired and the Lakers dipped to 12th in the Western Conference (currently 11th).
The Blazers (13-13) stand a half-game ahead of the Lakers. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Lillard compose a young and athletic group that will come to Staples Center expecting a win.
The Lakers should look a lot better than they did in the second game of the season when they lost in Portland 116-106.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.