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This time, Lakers return to their home court on a down note

The last time the Lakers were at Staples Center, they were celebrating an impressive win over the San Antonio Spurs.

In that game, they showed determination and resolve, responding to the Spurs' run early in the second half by blowing the game open thanks to tenacity, pace and execution to earn a 93-81 victory.

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The win was part of a four-game winning streak, one that briefly built optimism that the young team would start seeing results.

Friday, they'll return to their home court under much different circumstances.

Lonzo Ball's sore left knee will keep the rookie point guard off the floor for at least one more game. His backcourt mate, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, will also be unable to play because of a strained right Achilles' tendon.

Two key frontcourt players, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, are both questionable because of ankle and hand injuries, respectively.

Undermanned, the Lakers will have to correct the issues that plagued them in losses to Memphis and Oklahoma City, abruptly ending any good feelings the team built during the four-game winning streak that preceded the defeats.

During the winning streak, the Lakers allowed only 91.2 points per 100 possessions, by far the best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA during that span.

But in the last two losses, the Lakers' defense has regressed. Against Memphis and Oklahoma City, the team allowed 23.7 points more per 100 possessions.

The Lakers have been worse on offense in those two losses, too, a problem that's plagued the Lakers all season, coach Luke Walton said.

His team hasn't reached a point yet where its effectiveness on offense and defense can succeed independently.

In their 15 wins this season, they've held teams to 96.6 points per 100 possessions and scored 104.8. In their 29 losses, those numbers more than flip, with the defense allowing 109.3 points per 100 possessions with the offense only scoring 99.

These are problems that have been with the Lakers all year. They didn't come about on this recent three-game road trip. But they didn't go away. After strong wins against San Antonio and in Dallas, there was some hope that they might've started to disappear.

Any of those hopes, though, got shoved out of the way by tougher, more physical teams.

Rookies get votes

While the Lakers likely won't have a player participating in the the All-Star game on Feb. 18 at Staples Center, two Lakers players were on the fringes of consideration thanks to fan support.

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Ball and Kuzma each finished 10th in their positional group during voting for the All-Star game starters. Starters for the game are selected by a vote from fans, media and players.

UP NEXT

VS. INDIANA

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

On the air: TV: Spectrum Sportsnet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: The Lakers will be without Lonzo Ball (knee) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Achilles) at a minimum as they return to Staples Center to face the Indiana Pacers and one of the biggest breakout stars in the NBA this season, guard Victor Oladipo. The Pacers come to town winners of three in a row while the Lakers have lost their last two games.

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports

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