O.J. Mayo

Milwaukee's O.J. Mayo has taken over a reserve role for the Bucks in recent games. (Tannen Maury / EPA / November 16, 2013)

The Lakers (13-18) will host the Milwaukee Bucks (6-24) on Tuesday night, giving the home team a chance to end their five-game losing streak against the worst team in the NBA.

Milwaukee will play without forward/center John Henson, who is out with an ankle injury.

Of course, the Lakers have significant injury issues with Xavier Henry (knee) joining the ranks of Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (back) and Steve Blake (elbow).

Pau Gasol is expected to play, but judging by how he looked and sounded talking to the media after practice on Monday, his bronchitis and sinus infection may limit his effectiveness against the Bucks.

Key matchup

Khris Middleton has evolved into a primary scorer for the Bucks.

In his second season, after playing a year with the Detroit Pistons, Middleton is averaging 12.4 points a game on 45.9% shooting from the field and 44.9% from three-point range.

The 6-foot-7 small forward scored 23 points on Saturday in a loss to Minnesota Timberwolves.

Middleton has started 23 games for Milwaukee. He's also a dead-eye free-throw shooter at 88.7%.

The Lakers have been relying heavily on the scoring of Nick Young off the bench.  Injuries have decimated the team this season, and Young is one of the few players on the team who can create his own shot off the dribble.

Young is the Lakers' leading scorer at 16.2 a game while shooting 42.9% from the field and 37.2% from three-point range.

X-factor

The Lakers have missed Gasol in the post. With so many point guards out with injury, the team has also suffered without his playmaking.

How capable will Gasol be on the floor? After missing two games, he looked exhausted in practice just running basic conditioning drills.

Gasol won't be himself but if he can give the Lakers something -- anything -- they'll have a shot to beat the Bucks.

Through 28 games, Gasol has averaged 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds.

Though the Bucks will miss Henson, who has been a force offensively and defensively, Larry Sanders is finally back in action after sitting most of the season with a thumb injury.

The 6-foot-11 center is an accomplished rim protector. He's not a major offensive threat, a general issue for the Bucks this season. As a team, Milwaukee scores an average of just 92.7 points a night -- matched only by the Utah Jazz.

Outlook

If the Lakers are going to pack in the season for the draft lottery, losing to the Bucks at Staples Center would be a step in that direction.

The Lakers are still only five games behind the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. A push this week against teams such as the Bucks and Jazz (10-24) would help the Lakers inch closer to eighth place and a postseason spot

Judging by their recent play, and long list of injuries, the Lakers certainly haven't looked like a playoff contender this season.

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Mike D'Antoni says he got 'a bunch of coal' for Christmas

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