LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be looking for payback when the Clippers… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers broke their eight-game road losing streak in Week 14, winning at Minnesota and Detroit. The team might have gone a perfect 4-0 had Dwight Howard not aggravated his shoulder injury in the loss to the Phoenix Suns.
While the Lakers (22-26) have won five of their last six, the coming week will be a true test against the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats.
Overall, the Lakers are now five losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-14.
Tuesday at Brooklyn Nets
Coach Mike D'Antoni made his Lakers debut against the Nets on Nov. 20, prior to Steve Nash's return from a leg injury. The Lakers won 95-90, surviving a poor second quarter when they gave up 34 points to the Nets.
In the second half, the Lakers held Brooklyn to 33 points, getting the victory despite missing 18 free throws -- 12 from Howard, who nonetheless had 23 points and 15 rebounds. Brook Lopez scored 23 for the Nets and Deron Williams put in 22 points and 10 assists.
The Nets have since fired Avery Johnson and are playing well for Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Lopez is an All-Star, replacing the injured Rajon Rondo on the Eastern Conference squad.
The Lakers have been playing well of late, albeit still giving up leads on a near-daily basis.
Getting it done in Brooklyn might be an uphill battle, especially with Howard a question mark. He's missed the last two games and remains listed as day-to-day.
Thursday at Boston Celtics
The Celtics (24-23) are hard to get a read on. After winning six in a row, they dropped six straight. Now they're on a four-game winning streak, all since All-Star point guard Rondo went down with a knee injury.
Boston has lost both Rondo and Jared Sullinger for the season. The Celtics also will be playing the night before in Toronto against the Raptors.
The Lakers always seem to bring their best game to Boston. Expect a strong game from both longtime rivals -- even if Howard isn't ready to go.
Friday at Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats (11-35) are always a tough team for the Lakers. There's no real explanation; it's just always been that way (regardless of how poorly Charlotte finishes in the standings).
How the Lakers escaped with a win at Staples Center on Dec. 18 (101-100) is still a mystery. The Bobcats got in three attempts at the win in the final 5.9 seconds but somehow none of them fell.
Kemba Walker was a serious problem for the Lakers, scoring 28 points with seven assists. Former Lakers guard Ramon Sessions also had a strong night with 20 points and six assists.
The Lakers should beat the Bobcats based on record. There's just something about this strange semi-rivalry that suggests otherwise.
Sunday at Miami Heat
The Heat beat the Lakers, 99-90, at Staples Center on Jan. 17. The Lakers turned the ball over 20 times and missed 10 free throws, staying in the game at the three-point line with 10 makes in 22 tries.
Miami was led by LeBron James with 39 points while Dwyane Wade scored 27. Ray Allen was the closest to a third scorer with nine, including a number of key fourth-quarter baskets.
If the Lakers can control their turnovers, they'll have a better shot in Miami but wouldn't be considered the favorites.
Based on their recent play, it looks like the Lakers are a better team than they were even just a couple of weeks ago. Kobe Bryant is making a concerted effort to share the ball. Against the Heat he scored 22 but shot eight for 25 with just one assist. Since then Bryant has been nearing triple-doubles on a regular basis.
Beating the Heat in Miami would be a signature win for the Lakers . . .
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.