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Preview: Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers

Last year, the Indiana Pacers (34-9) emerged as a playoff contender. More than halfway through the 2013-14 season, the Pacers have the best overall record in the NBA.

Injuries have helped push the Lakers near the bottom of the standings at 16-29.

The Lakers are coming off a seven-game road trip, losing their last four and finishing the trip 2-5.

Indiana holds teams to an NBA-best 90.2 points a game. The Lakers allow a league-high 106.1.

Once again, the Lakers will play without Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (back) and Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Xavier Henry (knee).

Key matchup

Despite the Lakers' lack of team success, Pau Gasol has delivered a tremendous January.

Through 13 games in 2014, Gasol has averaged 20.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 blocks.

He will certainly be challenged by the defense of Roy Hibbert, who stands at 7-foot 2, 290 pounds.

Hibbert blocks 2.6 shots a night while averaging 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds.

The Pacers also have David West, who always seems to score at will against the Lakers, and Luis Scola off the bench.

X-factor

Though Paul George is among the top small forwards in the league, voted in by the fans as an All-Star starter (averaging 23.5 points a game), guard Lance Stephenson may be more problematic on Tuesday night.

In addition to playing fierce on-the-ball defense, Stephenson does a bit of everything -- scoring 14.2 points a game with seven rebounds and 5.3 assists.

At 6-foot-5, Stephenson nearly matches Hibbert on the glass.

The Lakers will need Nick Young to provide scoring against a tremendous defensive squad. Through 44 games, Young is leading the Lakers at 17 points a game.

Outlook

The Lakers, with all their injuries, are a mess defensively.

Indiana has so far outscored their opponents by 8.4 points a game this season.

It's not necessarily a promising situation for the Lakers, but it would be a big win against a true championship contender.

ALSO:

Preview: Week 14 predictions

Former Lakers forward Shawne Williams joins D-Fenders

Nearing comeback attempt, Steve Nash tweaks back, could play Friday

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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