Lakers' five must-see games of 2011-12 season
1. Lakers vs. Chicago (Dec. 25) - Laker fans will finally see what the purple & gold will look like under the Mike Brown regime. Either they'll be enjoying the look of Dwight Howard or Chris Paul donning Laker uniforms, or they'll be anxious to see how they hold up stopping Bulls guard Derrick Rose.
2. Lakers. vs. Dallas (Jan. 16) - Even if the Mavericks aren't considered the favorites to win the NBA title, there's a psychological component toward rectifying last year's playoff sweep.
3. Lakers at Miami (Jan. 19). The Lakers can't act like games against the Heat don't matter anymore. Miami beat them twice last season, and whether Laker fans like it or not, the Big Three will improve from last season's adversities. This game isn't important because of the media hype surrounding it. It's important because it allows the Lakers to make a significant statement for better or worse.
4. Lakers at Boston (Feb. 9). The Lakers always circle their games against the Celtics for obvious reasons. But these arch-rivals are meeting in different circumstances. Both are considered too old to be the NBA favorites, but they'll try to prove otherwise.
5. Lakers at Oklahoma City (Feb. 23). The Thunder will prove to be the toughest Western Conference contendor, and the Lakers will immediately find out why. The Lakers could struggle against a team mixes athleticism (Kevin Durant and Russell Wesbtrook) and physical play (Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka).
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, fouls Miami forward Chris Bosh during a game on Dec. 25. The Lakers will play back-to-back road games against the Heat and the Orlando Magic in January. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / December 25, 2010)