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Preview: Lakers Week 15 predictions

The Lakers head back out on the road for a three-game trip but they'll leave Pau Gasol behind with a groin injury.

The team may get back point guards Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring), but with the playoffs out of the picture -- losing is winning for the Lakers when it comes to the 2014 NBA draft lottery.

Both Kobe Bryant and Xavier Henry are out with injury (knee).

Through 47 games, the Lakers have just 16 wins, three behind cumulative expectations at 16-31.

Tuesday at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves (23-24) have struggled, playing without center Nikola Pekovic (ankle). 

While they've dropped two straight, they're not down like the Lakers, who have lost six in a row.

Kevin Love is one of the top power forwards in the league. Back in November, Love scored 25 -- helping to knock the Lakers out early with a 41-point first quarter from the Wolves.

The Lakers did defeat Minnesota in December, behind 21 points each from Gasol and Henry, but neither will be available on Tuesday.

Nick Young did score 25 in the Lakers' win, but he probably won't have enough help, (even with the Wolves out Pekovic).

The possible return of Nash, Blake and/or Farmar could give the Lakers a boost, but it's been a long time since any of the three were able to contribute to a Lakers' victory.

Prediction: Timberwolves

Wednesday at Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers (16-31) are really struggling, despite recently picking up Luol Deng in trade from the Chicago Bulls.

Given how many injuries the Lakers have suffered this year, more than any other team in the league, it's hard to understand why Cleveland has the same record as the Lakers.

The Cavaliers play in the weaker conference, which means more games against the eight other teams in the Eastern Conference that are under .500 -- and yet Cleveland has been perfectly mediocre.

With All-Star Kyrie Irving, and a Gasol and Bryant-less Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back, the Cavaliers should be able to get back on track -- at least for a night.

Prediction: Cavaliers

Friday at Philadelphia 76ers

If the Lakers aren't going to make the playoffs, then lottery position should be a priority. Naturally the players on the floor do their best to win but the Lakers are chasing the 76ers (15-33) for lottery position.

A Philadelphia win would tie both teams at 16 wins, assuming neither team wins before their meeting Friday. That's progress when tanking, ugly as that may be.

Meanwhile, the Sixers have a raw, talented young team.

The game should be competitive but it's best for the Lakers to finish their road trip with a nine-game losing streak.

Prediction: 76ers

Sunday vs. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have climbed from a difficult start, after losing star guard Derrick Rose to another knee injury and Deng to the Cavaliers in trade, to a respectable 23-23.

Center Joakim Noah is an All-Star as the Bulls continue to play some of the best defense in the league.

The Bulls recently beat the Lakers in Chicago on a last-second shot from Taj Gibson.

In Los Angeles after the brief road trip (and with Gasol unlikely to play), the Lakers should be able to finish the week without a victory.

Unfortunately, that's the best outcome given how badly injuries have derailed the season.

Prediction: Bulls

ALSO:

Lakers' six starting point guards haven't posted winning records

Ex-Lakers nation grows: Shannon Brown to Spurs, Bynum to Pacers

Lakers reportedly in talks to trade Pau Gasol to Phoenix

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

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