The 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers season wasn’t supposed to start like this.

After trading for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason, L.A. was considered to be the best team in the Western Conference, and one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals.

Two games into the new season, some fans are already starting to panic. At 0-2, the Lakers have looked like anything but a championship contender. They’ve yet to hold a lead in the second half of a game, and sit in last place in the Pacific Division.

Now, the Lakers must face their biggest challengers in their division. They’ll play the Clippers in the first of four meetings this season.

The matchup can be seen on ESPN at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch a free live stream online at Both teams play their home games at Staples Center, but the Clippers will be considered the road club.

Steve has struggled in his brief Lakers career, averaging just four assists per game. He probably won’t be able to redeem himself on Friday, as he’s doubtful with a lower leg contusion.

The Clippers will have Chris Paul, their star point guard. Without having to worry about stopping Nash, Paul could be in line to have a big game. He scored 12 points and dished out 12 assists in L.A.’s season opener against Memphis.

Blake Griffin had a lot of success against the Lakers last year, putting up 21 points and grabbing 12.3 rebounds per game. This year, he’ll have to contend with Howard and Pau Gasol in the frontcourt.

Kobe Bryant is determined to help the Lakers end their losing streak. In response to criticism about Los Angeles’ rough start to the year, Bryant told people to “shut up.”

For one of the few times in the history of the league, there is a question as to which is the best team in L.A. In front of their homes, the consensus Las Vegas betting odds have the Lakers as just four-point favorites.

Prediction: The Lakers have looked bad in their first two games. They clearly need time to gel, and this new collection of stars has yet to prove that they are ready to beat a quality team like the Clippers. Unlike the Lakers starters, Paul and Griffin have great chemistry, and will take advantage of a poor Lakers defense.

Predicted Score: Clippers 107, Lakers 98