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Preview: Lakers Week 24 predictions

The Lakers went winless through Week 23, gaining ground in the lottery standings on the Utah Jazz (24-53).

Injuries have kept players such as Pau Gasol (vertigo), Chris Kaman (calf), Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), Xavier Henry (knee) and Jordan Farmar (groin) off the court.

Farmar should be back for Week 24.  Kaman and Nash might play as well.

Through 77 games, the Lakers have just 25 wins, four behind cumulative expectations at 25-52.

Tuesday vs. Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard will make his second appearance at Staples Center against the Lakers, but isn't expected to play while recovering from an ankle injury.

The Rockets (51-25) have locked up a playoff spot but are still fighting for position.  Currently they're the fourth seed, with home-court advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers (50-28).  Houston is still playing to win.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have incentive not to win again this season to try and improve their position in May's NBA draft lottery.

Houston has one of the top offenses in the NBA.  The Lakers have one of the worst defenses, so expect a lot of points scored -- especially by the Rockets.

Prediction: Rockets

Friday vs. Golden State Warriors

The Lakers host another team fighting for playoff position.  The Warriors (48-29) have yet to clinch a spot and are three games ahead of the ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies (45-32).

Golden State is also trying to hold off the Dallas Mavericks (47-31) and Phoenix Suns (46-31).

The Warriors are led by All-Star Stephen Curry at 23.5 points and 8.5 assists a game.

Prediction: Warriors

Sunday vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The competition doesn't ease Sunday when the Lakers play their final home game of the year against the visiting Grizzlies.

Memphis, giving up just 94.4 points a game, is one of the top defensive clubs in the league.  The Grizzlies play at a slow pace, scoring 95.5 a night.  The Lakers prefer to run and play fast.

In a war of wills, expect Memphis to come out on top. The Grizzlies have  a playoff seed to play for, while the Lakers have nothing to gain but lottery position.

The Mavericks, Grizzlies and Suns are all fighting for two potential playoff slots, assuming the Warriors don't slump through the final stretch of the season.

Prediction: Grizzlies

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

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