Showtime: 7:30 pm PT
Plot: For as much as the Lakers are ailing, it would seem that the remedy is about to arrive at STAPLES Center. The visiting team is a mere 20-27, a record no doubt buoyed by their placement in the pungent Eastern Conference. They are truly one of the worst offensive teams in the league, ranking just 28th in both points per game and offensive efficiency. In fact, they've broken 100 points just six times this month. This, more than anything is a great sign for the Lakers, who have oddly enough given up 100 points in 13 straight games. And perhaps the rarest qualification of them all: this is a team that's actually lost to the LA Lakers this season. A surefire recipe for a win, no?
Unfortunately, the team I'm writing about is the Charlotte Bobcats.
The soon-to-be Hornets are a very bizarre 8-10 lifetime against the Lakers, a span of time which includes LA's three NBA Finalists, two titlists and seven 45 game-winning seasons. To put this in contest, the Bobcats have never had a season in which they've won even 44 games. Ever. Charlotte owns, albeit in a small sample size, the fourth best record against the Lakers in NBA history, just behind the Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. They've played the Show hard every single year, including a narrow 88-85 defeat at the hands of Kobe Bryant and company on December 14th.
The Bobcats have been playing uneven ball this month, holding to a 6-9 record. However, in that handful of wins they've beaten some good teams, including the Clippers, Toronto Raptors and on the road against a sometimes potent Denver Nuggets squad. They've done it with a surprisingly efficient defense, an impressive feat by new coach and ex-Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford.
The Lakers have gone 3-11 in January, a pitiful record that could have been even worse if not for a deflated Raptors team in Toronto and the abject awfulness of the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. LA has been playing zero defense of late, which helps conjures up the same losing formula night after night: any able-bodied guard going for huge numbers, offensive rebounding going through the roof and of course, zero rim protection. Tonight, this bodes well for a Charlotte squad that rebounds at a decent rate and especially for guards Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker, who may return from a sprained ankle. If indeed the latter can get back to the court, this could be a very, very long night for the Lakers, who are playing their worst basketball of the season.
The team may be without Pau Gasol tonight, who's been bothered by a sore groin muscle, and will definitely be without Steve Nash until next week. It seems that no help is coming to the Lakers, who are in desperate need of it to beat even their eternal foes in the Charlotte Bobcats. It could very well be a 3-12 month for LA, a record that might seem fantastic given potential extended absences to many key contributors.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino