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Preview: Lakers at Washington Wizards

The Lakers have been over .500 for just one game this season -- after their opening-night win over the Clippers.

At 7-7, the Lakers are at .500 for the fourth time this year, with another chance to surpass it as they visit the Washington Wizards (5-8) on Tuesday night.

The Wizards started the season slowly but have recently improved, winning three of their last four.

Bradley Beal, the team's leading scorer at 20.6 a night, is questionable with a leg injury.  Even so, the Wizards should still be a challenge for the Lakers.

Key matchup

Point guard John Wall is runs the Wizards offense, averaging 18.6 points, 9.0 assists and 2.1 steals a game.

He's athletic and quick but isn't his team's strongest outside shooter.

The Lakers will need to contain his penetration, without leaving shooters like Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster open.

Steve Blake has stepped into a leadership role with the Lakers, in the absence of Steve Nash (back).  Blake is averaging 10.1 points and 7.4 assists a game while shooting 46% from three-point range.

Wall is more talented than Blake, but the Lakers veteran has shown he can hold his own.

X-factor

The Wizards get points from Ariza and Webster.  If Beal plays, he adds another dimension offensively for the Lakers to deal with.

Washington matches up well with the Lakers inside, with big men Nene and Marcin Gortat.

Nene is averaging 14.5 points a game and can be a difficult cover when he's looking to score. 

Gortat doesn't have the same back-to-the basket game of Nene, but he's the better rebounder and shot-blocker.

The Lakers will counter with Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.  Both will need to stay out of foul trouble against Washington's front line.

Chris Kaman's status is unclear after sitting out a couple of games with a back injury.

Outlook

Catching the Wizards without Beal, assuming he's out, improves the Lakers' chances.

The Wizards have good size inside, penetration and athleticism at the point and shooters/defenders on the wing.

The Wizards don't have significant depth and are dealing with a number of injuries.

The Lakers have their own list of players who won't be available Tuesday (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash) but can boast more on the bench than Washington.

It's a winnable game for the Lakers but the difficulty will be putting it together on the road, where they're just 1-4.

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In Kobe Bryant's extension with Lakers, did he give back enough?

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

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