The Los Angeles Lakers continue their slide to the bottom of the Western Conference, but unlike most teams the deeper they fall the more media attention they receive. The story got another twist in the Lakers’ blowout loss to Memphis on Wednesday when Dwight Howard left the game late in the first half holding his right shoulder. Coach Mike D’Antoni confirmed that Dwight Howard, who re-aggrivated the torn labrum in his shoulder, will start tonight against Utah. The Utah Jazz (23-19) have won four straight, including a win over the Miami Heat, and stand in the seventh spot in the West. Utah PF Paul Millsap has been rumored to be on the trading block and is a viable option for the Lakers to receive in a trade including Pau Gasol. Gasol came off the bench in the game against the Grizzlies and is expected to do the same tonight.
The Jazz have already won the season series over the Lakers, winning the first two games, on November 7and December 9. Utah is playing without their starting point guard, Mo Williams who is out indefinitely with a thumb injury. Despite missing their star guard, Utah is sixth in the league in assists per game (23.0). They are now led by their big man C Al Jefferson who is averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The matchup between Al Jefferson and Dwight Howard will be one to watch, especially considering Howard’s injured shoulder. Jefferson is a more traditional center, with back to the basket moves, unlike Howard who needs space in the post to work. Millsap also plays good defense so it should be a good challenge for the injured Howard.
The game is the first of a three-game homestand, with Oklahoma City and New Orleans also coming to town. The three teams ahead of the Lakers in the West are either injured or face a tough week of matchups so the Lakers can use the homestand to make up some ground in the West.
#15 World Peace SF #2 Williams
#6 Clark PF #24 Millsap
#12 Howard C #25 Jefferson
#24 Bryant SG #8 Foye
#10 Nash PG #6 Tinsley
The game tips off at 7:30PM PT at Staples Center on TWC SportsNet and ESPNLA 710.
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