The Lakers split a four-game road trip, an improvement over recent weeks when wins were hard to come by. Now at 11-14, the Lakers are close to getting Pau Gasol back from knee tendinitis. In theory, Steve Nash is also almost ready to return from the leg injury that has kept him out of all but a game and half of the regular season. All told, the Lakers are four losses behind the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-7.
At a minimum, the Lakers should split, but a four-game win streak is certainly within reach.
Dec. 18 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats always seem to be a problem for the Lakers. It never seems to matter who Charlotte has in the lineup, although the Lakers did get the win last year in the lone meeting between the two.
Gasol appears likely to play on Tuesday, which is a boon for the Lakers who have been playing short-handed for eight games. Tendinitis in both knees limited the forward/center before he sat down. Good health should lead to better play and, ideally, a better Lakers squad.
The Bobcats are reeling after a strong start, dropping 11 straight. Naturally, they'd love to break that streak against the Lakers.
If the Lakers were dominating the league, perhaps they'd overlook the Bobcats as an easy foe. Instead, three games under .500, they won't make that mistake.
Dec. 22 at Golden State
The Warriors are having a very strong season despite Andrew Bogut (ankle) and Brandon Rush (knee) being out with injuries. At 16-8, Golden State is far enough ahead of the Lakers to control their own destiny (even if the Lakers sweep the final three meetings this season).
What's been most impressive is the Warriors' 10-5 road record, typically an area of weakness for the franchiser. Stephen Curry is the team's leading scorer, at 19.7 points per game, followed by David Lee's 19.2.
Golden State plays the night before at home against the Bobcats. The Lakers have a slight advantage Saturday, with plenty of time off to rest and practice. There's even a chance Nash could be ready to play by the weekend (although he's far less of a certainty than Gasol).
The Lakers are in need of a statement game. If they want any chance of catching the Warriors in the standings, they'll need to take care of the head-to-heads.