Minnesota's Ricky Rubio tries to pass the ball around Dallas'… (Genevieve Ross / Associated…)
The Lakers finally made up some ground in Week 13, defeating the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The coming week involves four struggling teams and a chance for the Lakers to lock in a six-game winning streak. Given how poorly they have played over the course of the season, have they really turned a corner? Week 14 is certainly their best chance to show it.
The team is now six losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-13.
Tuesday vs. New Orleans Hornets
If the Lakers' recent surge is a mirage, the Hornets (15-29) will upend them.
The Hornets have a poor record but they've been playing well since Eric Gordon returned from a knee injury.
Through 13 games, Gordon has averaged 16.8 points a game while shooting just 39.9% from the field. He hasn't been efficient, but the Hornets are 8-5 with the 6-foot-3 guard in the lineup. They're 7-24 without him.
The Lakers won easily in New Orleans on Dec. 5.
Wednesday at Phoenix Suns
The Suns (15-30) have the worst record in the Western Conference. They fired their coach (Alvin Gentry) and promoted former Lakers guard Lindsey Hunter.
The Suns won their first two games under Hunter but have dropped two since. They have two full days off to prepare for the Lakers, who are coming into Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back.
The two teams met on Nov. 16, another strong win for the Lakers.
The Lakers should be able to beat the Suns, but they always seem to struggle against a Goran Dragic-led team.
Put this one down as the let-down after three straight wins.
Friday at Minnesota Timberwolves
For some strange reason, the Lakers and Wolves (17-24) have yet to meet this season. The Timberwolves have had a tough year, beset with more injuries than even the Lakers.
At full strength, Minnesota has a ton of talent. The good news for the Lakers is that the Wolves are hardly near full strength.
That said, players such as Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea can be difficult to contain in the backcourt even if Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knee) and Chase Budinger (knee) won't play.
Whether the Lakers win or lose in Phoenix on Wednesday, they'll need this one in Minnesota.
Sunday at Detroit Pistons
The Lakers blasted the Pistons (17-27) on Nov. 4, 108-79, but Detroit has improved since then.
While the Pistons are not very good, they've had some big wins in January over teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.
The Lakers should get the win, but there's something about playing at 10 a.m. PST on a Sunday that doesn't sound promising.
The Lakers should sweep the week -- but if they're the same team that has gone forward in starts and stops this year, they'll drop games to the Suns and Pistons.
However, four straight would mean a six-game winning streak and a big step toward getting back into the top eight in the Western Conference.
Lakers' Dwight Howard trying to play through pain
Lakers pull away in fourth quarter for victory over Thunder
Even in victory, Lakers struggling with turnovers and free throws
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.