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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: Starting Lineup Ready to Reunite for Playoffs

Pau Gasol Kobe Bryant

Jayme Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports

The 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers campaign has often taken on the appearance of a lost season. Whether it was the ominous 1-4 start, peculiar crowding of Kobe Bryant‘s landing spot by Dahntay Jones, or all the nagging injuries in between, the waves just kept coming.

However, the Lakers’ starting lineup might get placid at just the right time with Paul Gasol and Bryant expected to return Friday. With 13 games now remaining, the Lakers figure to have their full starting five together for just the 18th time this season.

This collection of high-profile players figure to make them the most dangerous lower-seeded playoff squad in recent memory, but a devil’s advocate might point toward their 6-11 record this season with Gasol, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash all active.

“There were a lot of decisions made when Steve Nash wasn’t on the floor 100 percent, a lot of decisions made when Dwight wasn’t 100 percent and Pau wasn’t playing real well in the beginning; he wasn’t 100 percent,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Log Angeles. “All of them were hurt, and so you think, ‘Well, that’s not working. This is not working.’

“But when they’re all 100 percent, it can work. That’s what the management and we [on the coaching staff] envision: That Pau’s too talented and too good, Dwight’s too talented and too good, Kobe and go right down the list, Steve Nash. We have to be able to figure it out, and I think we can.”

The key for this lineup finally delivering on off-season promise will be the Lakers’ continued improvement on defense.

It was assumed that the Howard signing would solve most of L.A.’s issues on defense by protecting the rim better than anyone in the league. This hasn’t been the case thus far this season but Howard has improved markedly in recent weeks and it’s shown in the team’s box score: The Lakers have climbed up to 19th in the NBA in points per 100 possessions after allowing fewer than 100 points in each of the past six games.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google