Houston's Jeremy Lin and James Harden react to a call against the Miami… (Scott Halleran / Getty Images )
The Lakers went winless through Week 10, falling to 15-18 on the season. The Portland Trail Blazers are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference at 18-15. The minimum goal for the Lakers is to make up those three games just to get into the postseason.
With three straight losses, the Lakers are now six losses behind the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-10, and the week ahead is extremely difficult. The season may get uglier for the Lakers before (or if) it gets better.
Jan. 8 at Houston Rockets
The Rockets are the highest-scoring team in the league at 106.2 points per game. The Lakers have had problems playing defense. That's not a great combination.
Houston is 20-14, winners of four straight. James Harden is averaging 26.4 points a game. Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons are difficult players to deal with defensively.
The Rockets don't exactly play much defense, and so the Lakers may have some luck in a shootout.
If there's a game to get, it's Houston at the start of the week. Of course, that may depend on the MRI Dwight Howard is getting on his sore right shoulder.
Jan. 9 at San Antonio Spurs
The Lakers gave the Spurs a real challenge at Staples Center in the halcyon days of Bernie Bickerstaff.
If the Lakers were playing their best basketball, perhaps they'd have a real chance to upset the Spurs in San Antonio. However, given how poorly the Lakers have played of late, it's probably too much to expect on the second night of a road back-to-back.
The Spurs (27-9) are led by Tony Parker at 19.1 points a game. Veteran Tim Duncan is having a strong year at 17.7 points, 9.6 boards and 2.5 blocks per game.
San Antonio has depth, with players such as Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and a long list of contributors.
The Spurs score almost as many points a game (105.3) as the Rockets but are much stingier defensively, giving up just 96.7 per game.
Jan. 11 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have the best record in the league at 26-7. Is there any reason to expect the Lakers to suddenly play at an elite level, even if just for one night?
The Lakers defense will be tested for the third straight night against Oklahoma City's 105.6 points per game. OKC also plays defense, holding opponents to 95.6, leading to the best point-differential in the league, at 9.0.
Slowing Kevin Durant is difficult in itself but Russell Westbrook tends to be an even greater issue. Kevin Martin is fitting in well as the team's third scorer while Serge Ibaka has added offense, along with his already strong defensive game.
If the Lakers won all three to start the week, the many sins from earlier in the year (three losses already in 2013) would be forgotten.
Jan. 13 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers have already dropped against to the 8-27 Cavaliers, falling in Cleveland 100-94 on Dec. 11.
Regardless of what happens over the first three games of the week, the Lakers are going to need a victory over the Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving, in particular, is a difficult cover for the Lakers (and most teams). At 23.4 points a game while averaging 5.6 assists, Irving always seems to play his best against the Lakers.
Another key piece is Anderson Varejao, who is currently out with a knee injury. If he's in the lineup, Varejao is a big rebounder who can hit mid-range shot when needed.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.