The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant is pressured by the Phoenix Suns'… (Matt York / Associated Press )
After a seven-game road trip, the Lakers (24-28) return home to Staples Center on Tuesday night to host the Phoenix Suns (17-35).
The road trip started on a sour note when Dwight Howard re-aggravated his shoulder problem in Phoenix. The Lakers collapsed in the fourth quarter, with Phoenix riding Michael Beasley.
Meanwhile, the Suns have the worst record in the Western Conference.
The first one back home after a long road trip can be a trap game. The Lakers still have a shot at the playoffs but they simply can't lose games to well-under-.500 teams such as the Suns.
There are a number of key matchups between the Suns and Lakers. Howard battling his former Orlando Magic teammate Marcin Gortat is a heavyweight bout.
Gortat had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the Phoenix victory while Howard went out (after his shoulder injury) with nine points and 14 rebounds.
The other matchup to watch is Steve Nash against his former backup, Goran Dragic. Though Dragic didn't have his best game the last time they met, he dished eight assists with 11 points as the Suns pulled away 92-86.
Nash, in his first return to Phoenix as a Laker, scored 11 points with four assists.
Given how badly Beasley lit up the Lakers, scoring 27 points off the bench, he's going to be a focus of attention for the Lakers' defense.
The assignment will probably go to Metta World Peace, Earl Clark and possibly Antawn Jamison. Beasley's performance may have been an outlier, but when he is hot, he adds a unique dimension to the Suns.
Offensively, the Lakers need World Peace to rediscover his shot.
The Lakers can't afford to lose to the Suns.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.