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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, January 31st (All times Eastern)

Charlotte Bobcats (20-27) at Los Angeles Lakers (16-30), 10:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Charlotte Bobcats started their four-game western trip with a win and they'll try to keep the momentum going Friday night when they head to the Staples Center to visit the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bobcats opened their trek with a 101-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

Al Jefferson was dominant with 35 points and 11 rebounds. Gerald Henderson added 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Ramon Sessions scored 16 and dished out seven assists for the Bobcats, who snapped a two-game slide.

"One of the keys to the game was we got off to a good start. We struggled defensively in the second half with the high pick-and-roll defense. I thought in the last three or four minutes we played well defensively," said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford.

It will be a return of sorts for Clifford as he was a Lakers assistant last season.

The Bobcats may get a huge piece back on Friday night as Kemba Walker is close to a return. He's missed the last five games with a sprained left ankle, but practiced Thursday and could be a go for either Friday or Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers are mired in a five-game losing streak and are a 1/2 game out of dead last in the Western Conference.

After a seven-game Grammy road trip, where the Lakers lost the last four, LA came home on Tuesday and fell to the Indiana Pacers, 104-92. It was the 13th consecutive outing where the Lakers allowed 100-plus points.

Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks both scored 21 points for LA. It was Gasol's fifth consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Kendall Marshall contributed 11 points and 13 assists.

Prior to the game, the Lakers announced that star Kobe Bryant would miss at least another three weeks before returning to the lineup because of pain and swelling in his left knee.

"At this point there's no use forcing him back," said LA head coach Mike D'Antoni. "So when he's ready, he'll play."

The Lakers did see some encouraging signs on the injury front. Point guards Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake all practiced on Thursday, but all three have been ruled out against the Bobcats.

"I can get up and down first of all," Nash explained. "I can withstand more demands, more contact, more unpredictable factors, change of direction, playing against somebody. That was something the nerve and spine couldn't handle two weeks ago."

The Lakers have won five straight against the Bobcats, including this season's only matchup in Charlotte.

01/31 11:50:24 ET