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Things to watch in Lakers-Charlotte Bobcats matchup

January 31, 2012 | 12:34 pm

Kobe Bryant

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (12-9) host the Charlotte Bobcats (3-18) tonight (Tuesday) at Staples Center.

1. Will the Lakers lay an egg? On paper, the Lakers should easily win this game. Charlotte has the NBA's worst record; the Lakers are 10-2 at home. The Bobcats will feature injured starters in D.J. Augustin (sore toe) and Corey Maggette (strained hamstring). But there are plenty of reasons why no one should put it past the Lakers to blow this opportunity for an easy win.

L.A. is 6-8 against the Bobcats and has lost three of seven home games against them. The Lakers took Monday off to rest their legs, but that could contribute to bad execution. The Lakers have a six-game trip beginning Friday at Denver, and they could enjoy the friendly confines of Staples Center a little too much. And most importantly, the Lakers remain unpredictable.

2. The Lakers must play well enough to rest their starters. Coach Mike Brown has remained reluctant to limit his starters' minutes. The Lakers have simply proven to be too unreliable at compiling wins without Kobe Bryant (38.6 minutes), Pau Gasol (37.7) and Andrew Bynum (34.4) shouldering the load. With given how much the team struggles on the road, L.A. can't afford to squander this opportunity against Charlotte. Not only does the team have to win, it has to do with comfortable margins. The game against Charlotte gives the Lakers a prime opportunity to give the starters some rest. Brown's failure to monitor these minutes could prove costly later in the season.

3. Use this game as extended practice.With the Lakers lacking quality practice time because of the compacted schedule, this is the best opportunity to sharpen concepts. At the beginning of the game, let Bryant, Bynum and Gasol figure out the perfect balance in scoring. With Lakers forward Metta World Peace starting for the second consecutive game, this could be an opportunity for him to improve his rhythm. With the Laker bench hardly looking like one with an identity, this game could be a psychological pick-me-up. And most importantly, the Lakers could learn better how to execute the read offense.

*Usually, there are five things to watch in a game. Not this one. And if there are, the Lakers are in more trouble than everyone thought.


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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant comes away with one of his 14 rebounds against the Timberwolves in the second half Sunday night in Minneapolis. Credit: Jim Mone / Associated Press / Jan. 29, 2012