Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 25 points, drives past… (Frank Franklin II / Associated…)
The Lakers finished the Grammy road trip with two wins in four tries, surviving in Charlotte and a solid victory in Brooklyn. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat were too much to deal with, but the Lakers finished their extended road trip with a 4-3 record.
With the All-Star Game this weekend, the Lakers only have two on the schedule. The playoffs are still in range, but the Lakers simply need to win and win often.
Overall, the team is still five losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-15.
Tuesday vs. Phoenix Suns
The biggest letdown on the seven-game road trip was in Phoenix on Jan. 30. The Lakers completely fell apart in the fourth quarter, giving up 29 points while scoring just 13 in a 92-86 defeat.
The team lost Dwight Howard in that game with the re-aggravated shoulder, giving up a five-point lead with seven minutes left to lose by six.
Now Howard is back but Pau Gasol is out for six to eight weeks.
Despite the loss in Phoenix, the Lakers have played well of late. The playoffs are still somewhat in reach but that will take wins over teams like the Suns.
Michael Beasley had a huge game against the Lakers, scoring 27 with five steals off the bench.
Look for the Lakers to do a much better job on Beasley and the Suns on Tuesday.
Thursday vs. Clippers
The Clippers (36-17) are finally back at full strength after a difficult stretch of injuries, including a bruised knee for Chris Paul.
There's no question the Clippers have had a better year than the Lakers. They're deeper and Paul is among the top closers in the league.
On this night, with the Clippers playing the night before in Houston, the Lakers may have an opportunity to get one this season against their Staples Center roommates.
The Lakers and Clippers already have met twice this season, the Clippers winning both. Paul was a major factor in both. The Lakers are playing a much better brand of basketball over recent weeks — not consistent and certainly flawed, but better.
Even without Gasol (foot), the Lakers need the game badly. A few missteps and their playoff hopes will be dashed. An extra win or two against a playoff team like the Clippers could keep them in the mix.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.