Former Laker Ramon Sessions had 20 points and six assists for Charlotte… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
After getting trounced by the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, the Lakers (23-27) visit the Bobcats in Charlotte (11-37) on Friday.
The Bobcats have lost five in a row and, after a relatively strong start, have the worst record in the NBA.
Still, the Lakers always seem to have a difficult time with Charlotte, regardless of the circumstances.
Dwight Howard is back from three games off with a shoulder injury. Pau Gasol is out for six to eight weeks with a foot injury. The advantage of getting beaten so thoroughly by the Celtics: Most Lakers played relatively short minutes on the first night of back-to-back games.
The Lakers somehow escaped with a one-point victory over Charlotte back on Dec. 18, when the Bobcats had four shots at the game winner in the final 5.9 seconds. Technically, Byron Mullens was not credited with an attempt, maybe because the trajectory of the ball went toward the free-throw line instead of the basket. Ben Gordon's three-point shot just didn't drop for Charlotte.
Suffice it to say that the Lakers had a hard time with the Bobcats and the main instigator was Kemba Walker with 28 points and seven assists.
Steve Nash missed the 101-100 win. The Lakers might need to use a combination of Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and, possibly, Darius Morris to make sure Walker doesn't have a big game.
The Lakers also had trouble with Ramon Sessions, who scored 20 with six assists.
Mullens was a difficult cover for the Lakers. He only shot five for 19 from the field for his 13 points, but Mullens collected 17 rebounds, blocked four shots and had five assists. He also spread the floor, hitting three of eight shots from three-point range.
The Lakers need a dominant Howard back, especially without Gasol, but Howard didn't look quite like himself against the Celtics on Thursday.
The Lakers are still in the race for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Their road just got a lot more difficult without Gasol, but the key for the Lakers will be beating literally all the "bad" teams (under .500) they face along the way -- starting with the Bobcats.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.