Los Angeles Lakers Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for January 2015

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIIJanuary 3, 2015

Los Angeles Lakers Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for January 2015

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    The Lakers aim to stay competitive amid a difficult January schedule.
    The Lakers aim to stay competitive amid a difficult January schedule.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers were better in the month of December. 

    They won 40 percent of their games and upset a couple of championship contenders in the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors

    Los Angeles closed the month in style with a quality win in Denver and a triple-double (on efficient shooting!) from Kobe Bryant.

    January will be a tougher task, as the Lakers are lined up against a slew of playoff contenders and hopefuls. They only have five tilts away from Staples Center on the docket, but when they do hit the road, they'll be in for some battles.

    Let's break down L.A.'s January schedule and predict its wins and losses for the first month of 2015.

January 1-January 4

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The marquee matchup to kick off the new year comes on January 2, as the Lakers host the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Memphis comes into 2015 with a 23-8 record, third in the West and good enough to lead the always competitive Southwest Division.

    The two sides have already squared off twice this season—back in November—with the Grizzlies coming out on top on both occasions.

    The Lakers have kept it close each time, though, so they go into this matchup feeling good about their chances. Memphis' offense runs hot and cold and will rely even more heavily on Marc Gasol if Zach Randolph is out of the lineup once again.

    Containing Gasol will be key to keeping L.A. in this one, while ball movement similar to what it displayed in its previous outing in Denver will put it over the top.

    Los Angeles only managed 38 assists combined in its two meetings with the Grizzlies, and Bryant has struggled mightily from the floor (15-of-41) against Tony Allen and the gritty Memphis defense.

    Indiana also comes to town in the first week of January, having already blown out the Lakers at home three weeks ago.

    The Lakers will look for revenge on their own turf. The matchup will be similar to Memphis, as the Pacers lean on their stingy D to win games. Indy does have George Hill back in the squad, so its offense is trending upward.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 1-1

January 5-January 11

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    It's a big deal whenever the Lakers meet the Los Angeles Clippers, and this season's second iteration of the Staples Center Showdown takes place on January 7.

    The Clips are the designated home team, after the Lakers played host in the prior meeting back on Halloween.

    That tilt was a high-scoring affair in which the Lakers actually held the lead entering the fourth quarter, only to surrender that advantage in a 118-111 loss.

    Blake Griffin was a monster that night, tallying 39 points in 39 minutes, and the Lakers must key in on him in order to slow down the third-best offense in the league.

    Griffin has matured into a dual-threat player who is equally dangerous scoring or distributing. He's averaging a full five assists per game on the year, including two 11-assist outings in his last five. Griffin is a big reason why the Clippers are fifth in the NBA as a team in assist percentage.

    The Clippers are struggling defensively, ranking 21st in points allowed per possession over their last 12 contests, per NBA.com. Bryant and Co. need to take advantage of the chinks in the armor to put up another solid number in this one.

    January's second week is bookended by a home-and-home set with the streaking Portland Trailblazers.

    Portland has won nine of its last 10 and currently sits second in the West. It is one of just three teams to rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense on a per-possession basis and will provide a stiff test for the Lakers.

    The Orlando Magic also make a trip to L.A.—the most winnable game in a tough stretch for the Lakers.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 1-3

January 12-January 18

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The Lakers get to see LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time in a nationally televised tilt on January 15.

    Actually going against James is now in doubt as Cleveland just pronounced its star to be out the next two weeks with knee and back strains. That timetable falls exactly in line with the Cavs' date with L.A.

    Should James still be sidelined, things get a lot easier for the Lakers. The Cavs look like a mediocre outfit without their hometown hero.

    According to NBA.com, Cleveland gets outscored by a sound 8.8 points per 100 possessions without James around, scoring and defending at bottom-10 rates.

    The Lakers can take advantage of a soft Cavs defense and Cleveland's overall downward spiral to sneak out with a victory if James doesn't suit up.

    There are only two other games on the docket for the week—a home clash with LeBron's old mates from Miami and a road trip to Utah.

    Both clubs are currently under .500, but the Heat just welcomed Chris Bosh back into the fold, and the Jazz have looked quite frisky of late.

    Still, this is the week the Lakers can pick up multiple victories and build momentum heading into January's final third. 

    Weekly Record Prediction: 2-1 

January 19-25

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    Darren Abate/Getty Images

    The going gets tough in January's fourth week with the Lakers in the midst of a difficult four-game road trip through the Western Conference.

    The final stop on that journey comes in San Antonio, where the Lakers triumphed in an overtime thriller in December.

    Nick Young was huge in that game, scoring 29 points off the bench and sealing the deal with a three-pointer only Swaggy P could hit in the game's dying moments.

    Bryant struggled from the field but contributed heavily by dishing out nine assists—six of which came during the final six minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

    Of course, Kawhi Leonard didn't play for the Spurs, and Tony Parker exited the contest early, but L.A. can go into this matchup with some confidence and familiarity.

    The Spurs knocked off the Lakers in L.A. earlier in the season as well, so this third (and final) meeting will decide the season series.

    Los Angeles kicks off the week with an MLK Day national TV special against the Phoenix Suns, before traveling to New Orleans to face the Pelicans. A home date with the Houston Rockets rounds out the week.

    It's rough road for the Lakers in this seven-day stretch. The Suns are clinging to the eighth playoff spot in the West, with the Pelicans trying desperately to usurp them. Anthony Davis is shooting a blistering 74 percent (23-of-31) in two wins over L.A. this season.

    Meanwhile, Houston will want revenge for an upset at the hands of the Lakers in their last meeting. Dwight Howard is back in the lineup now, and L.A. will also see Houston's shiny new fleet of midseason acquisitions.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 0-4

January 26-January 31

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Just two games are on the slate in January's final week, headlined by a nationally televised matchup with the Chicago Bulls.

    It's a rematch of the Christmas Day meeting the Bulls took by 20. But, more importantly, it's the first time Pau Gasol comes back to L.A. to take on his former club.

    It will be an emotional day for the Staples Center crowd as its beloved Spaniard returns to the site of two hard-earned championships. Surely, it will be a warm reception for Gasol.

    As for the actual game, the Lakers will need to improve on their previous performance against Chicago, where they mustered just 93 points on 92 shots.

    Young—who entered the game on a nice run—was held to a mere three points, and the team shot a paltry 39 percent from the field without Bryant in the lineup.

    The Bulls are one of the three teams mentioned earlier who are in the top 10 on both sides of the ball and will not be an easy opponent, especially with Derrick Rose playing consistently and their devastating front line fully intact.

    A home meeting with the Washington Wizards is the only other game on tap. The crew from D.C. beat the Lakers in early December, running away with the contest late in the fourth quarter. These two Eastern Conference contenders could prolong a losing skid for the Lakers heading into February.

    Weekly Record Prediction: 0-2

Janurary Wrapup

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    January will be a challenge for the Lakers. Of the 15 tilts on their schedule, 11 come against teams currently in the playoffs. Even their four other matchups are against squads on the upswing.

    It will be important for L.A. to get off to a good start. Several of the teams it faces to begin January are missing key cogs, giving the Lakers a chance to pull out some unexpected victories.

    The third week of January is particularly inviting. The Lakers will finish off a four-game homestand against the Miami Heat and the wavering—possibly LeBron James-less—Cleveland Cavaliers, before making the short trip to Utah to take on a team they are just about even with in the standings.

    Conversely, the last two weeks of the month are brutal. Their final six opponents all have .500 records or better and have all beaten L.A. at least once already. The Lakers are just 2-9 against that stiff competition. 

    If L.A. gets off to the start it wants, January will be more or less in line with what it has done this season. But with a slate as tough as this, the Lakers could be looking at a lot of losses should one or two of the lighter matchups go the wrong way.

    Final Record Projection for January: 4-11


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