Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers hit the All-Star break with a 25-29 record, losing badly to the Clippers on Thursday.
With some time to rest and reflect, the team picks up at home on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics. On Friday, they'll host the Portland Trail Blazers, a team they need to overtake in the standings. The Lakers close out the week in Dallas -- another competitor for one of the bottom seeds in the Western Conference.
Overall, the Lakers are still five losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-16.
Wednesday vs. Boston Celtics
Two weeks ago, the Lakers stayed with the Celtics (27-23) for about a quarter in a 116-95 Boston victory.
The Celtics dominated the second and third quarters, scoring 68 points. Paul Pierce scored 24 while Jeff Green put in 19 off the bench.
Though Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, he didn't dish a single assist. Dwight Howard fouled out with nine points, nine rebounds and four turnovers.
It was a poor showing for the Lakers, and though they'll likely be better at home ... have they turned the corner?
Friday vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers (25-28) are one of the few teams in the league that the Lakers can beat on depth. Of course, Portland's starting group, led by rookie Damian Lillard and all-star LaMarcus Aldridge, is extremely formidable.
The Lakers and Trail Blazers have split a pair this season. True to form, the home team almost always seems to win when these two play each other.
With the Blazers slightly ahead in the standings, this would qualify as a must-win for the Lakers.
Sunday at Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks (23-29) have been up and down this season. They beat the Lakers in the season opener in October at Staples Center. They were pummeled by the Lakers in Dallas in late November.
Now, with Dirk Nowitzki back from a knee injury, the Mavericks are far more formidable. They're also vulnerable and fighting for the same thing the Lakers are.
Dallas is just a game back of the Lakers, and each team needs to catch at least Portland and either the Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz to make the playoffs.
Although the Lakers need to win most of their remaining schedule, going 2-1 on the week would be relatively solid if the victories come over the Blazers and Mavericks.
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