By Eric Pincus
10:49 AM PST, December 16, 2013
The Lakers dipped back under .500 after a difficult Week 7.
It took a late fourth-quarter run to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats for the Lakers to improve to 11-12 on the season.
Week 8 won't be easy with a back-to-back set in Atlanta and Memphis starting Monday. The Lakers play a second back-to-back set on Friday, starting at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by a visit to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
Through 23 games, the Lakers have exceeded cumulative expectations by three wins.
Monday at Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks (12-12) are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, despite playing just .500 ball.
The Lakers barely beat the Hawks in early November. Now the Lakers are working to reintegrate Kobe Bryant, back from an Achilles injury.
Of course he's playing out of position, starting at point guard because Steve Blake (elbow), Steve Nash (back) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) are sidelined with injuries.
Atlanta has two dynamic bigs in Al Horford and Paul Millsap. The Lakers still have a size advantage but the Atlanta duo is skilled and mobile.
The Lakers have struggled with Pau Gasol playing through a sprained ankle. Foot speed has been an issue.
Kobe Bryant might look to make up for last year's loss in Atlanta, which ended on a blown call (acknowledged by the NBA) and a Bryant sprained ankle. The culprit, Dahntay Jones, is no longer with the Hawks — but that may not matter to Bryant.
Tuesday at Memphis Grizzlies
Under normal circumstances, the Lakers shouldn't have much of a chance in Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back.
But the Grizzlies (10-13) have really struggled this season, playing without Marc Gasol (knee) and now reserve Quincy Pondexter (foot).
At their best, Memphis isn't a high-scoring team. The Lakers may be catching the Grizzlies at exactly the right time.
Still, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph are serious threats.
Friday vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12) thoroughly embarrassed the Lakers in their last visit, scoring 47 points in the first quarter in a 113-90 victory.
Kevin Martin scored 27 but he should have a more difficult night if matched up with Kobe Bryant instead of the six-foot-three Steve Blake.
The Lakers are still an unknown quantity, but if they can recapture some of the fight they showed before Bryant's return, and the natural adjustment period, they should be able to take out quality teams like the Timberwolves at Staples Center.
And there's a chance Farmar could be back by Friday.
Saturday at Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors (13-12), haven't had the kind of success they envisioned. Guard/forward Andre Iguodala suffered a hamstring injury when the Warriors visited the Lakers on Nov 22.
The Lakers won 102-95 and Iguodala hasn't played since.
The Warriors previously blitzed the Lakers 125-94 on Oct. 30, also the second night of a back-to back for the Lakers.
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