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Injury-Ravaged Lakers Facing A Potentially Long Week

It seems that any time this season that the Los Angeles Lakers have taken a step forward, they then take two steps back. Now the team will be without All-Star big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol for the immediate future.

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The Lakers have spent exactly one night over .500 this season: when L.A., which started 0-3, beat Brooklyn on November 20, the team was 6-5. However the very next night, the Lakers were blown out by a very bad Sacramento team to fall back to 6-6. Since then, the team has rallied to the break-even mark three times:

*-On November 30 against Denver; the Lakers won 122-103 to improve to 8-8, but then would lose their next game at home to a lousy Orlando team.

*-After a December 13 loss at the Knicks; L.A. was a season-low five games under .500 at 9-14. However, the Lakers won five in a row, capped by a Christmas Day home win over the Knicks, to get to 14-14. Los Angeles would lose by 12 the next night in Denver.

*-On December 28 against Portland; the Lakers beat the Blazers 104-87. Since then, L.A. lost at home to Philadelphia (after which there reportedly was an altercation between Kobe Bryant and Howard), was beaten for the second-straight time this season by the Clippers and then lost 112-105 at home to Denver on Sunday to drop to 15-18. The Lakers are currently No. 11 in the West and have dropped to 17/2 at the book to win the NBA title and 9/2 to win the West, now behind not just the Thunder (19/10) but the Clippers (7/2) and Spurs (4/1) as well.

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The book will have Live Betting on Lakers games Tuesday at Houston and Wednesday at San Antonio, and L.A. will not have Howard or Gasol likely for the rest of the week at a minimum - the Lakers are 5-10 on the road as it is and have the worst road ATS mark at 5-10. Howard hurt his right shoulder in Friday's loss to the Clippers but played Sunday against Denver and was effective with 14 points, career-high-tying 26 rebounds and four blocks. Howard's shoulder was painful and an MRI on Monday showed he had a torn labrum. He won't even be re-examined for a week. Gasol suffered a concussion on a blow to the face in the fourth quarter Sunday and will not make the Texas trip. Both are being called out indefinitely. Also out for the two games in Texas is backup center Jordan Hill with a hip injury. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said rookie 7-footer Robert Sacre would start in Houston.

Back when the Lakers added Howard, L.A's Metta World Peace predicted the team would break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 regular-season wins. Now the Lakers would be fortunate to win just 45. In fact, if the top eight teams in the West were to maintain their current winning percentage for the rest of the season, the Lakers would have to finish 31-18 to reach the 46 wins that it would likely take to grab the West's final playoff spot. That's a winning percentage of .633 - only seven teams are winning at that pace currently.

L.A's defense is already a problem, as the Lakers are one of just six teams allowing at least 100 points per game. That will only get worse without Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, in the middle. The Lakers have been a good rebounding team, but that also will suffer as Howard (12.4) and Gasol combine to (8.4) average nearly half the team's rebounds per game. Kobe Bryant is having a brilliant season, leading the NBA in scoring at 30.5 points per game. Now Kobe will likely have to play even more minutes, and he's already averaging nearly 42 per game in the past 10 and almost 40 this season. At age 34, those minutes are likely to catch up to Bryant at some point this season. After the Texas swing, the Lakers host the Thunder on Friday and the Cavaliers on Sunday.

*-Other than the two Lakers games early this week, the book also will have Live Betting Wednesday on Mavericks at Clippers. The Mavericks probably envy the Lakers' situation as they enter this week having lost eight-of-nine and are 12th in the West. Dallas has made the playoffs 12-straight seasons but would need a major turnaround to extend that. Even former Finals MVP and franchise player Dirk Nowitzki has recently questioned the direction of the franchise and wondered if the team should trade him to rebuild - although he later backed off that. The Mavericks are hoping that Howard doesn't like L.A. and signs with them this offseason when he hits free agency.

The Clippers had lost two straight following a 17-game winning streak, but L.A. had impressive wins over the Lakers and Warriors at home over the weekend. The team played without likely Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford in both wins due to a sore foot. He is expected back against the Mavericks. Crawford averages 16.5 points per game and leads the NBA with 13 20-point games off the bench. The Clips, who have the NBA's best ATS mark at 22-13, beat the Mavericks 112-90 at Staples Center on December 5. Crawford led the club with 20 points. Dallas didn't have the injured Nowitzki for that game and had won nine of the previous 12 meetings in L.A.

Check back Thursday for a weekend Live Betting preview at the book.

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