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  • Despite missing practices the last two days, Kobe Bryant will be in the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. Bryant has been plagued by a sore right ankle and a strained right foot. Having Bryant out of the lineup certainly would have been a letdown for Jazz fans as this is the Lakers’ only trip to Utah during the regular season. It also would have been a disappointment for Bryant. “We’ve had some epic duels in this building,” Bryant said after the team’s shootaround this morning. “Obviously, when I first came in the league, they were getting the better of us pretty much every single time, every year. Things kind of turned around for us and it started becoming a little more pleasant to see them.”
  • Point guard Steve Nash is not with the Lakers as he continues to rehab a left-leg injury. In his place in the lineup will be Steve Blake, who will make his third straight start. Blake had eight points and two assists in his first start against the Clippers, but played a better all-around game against the Pistons, recording six points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals.
  • Lakers coach Mike Brown said center Dwight Howard still isn’t 100 percent recovered from back surgery, but added that L.A.’s new center is on his way back. “Every time he steps out on the court he takes a step closer to the player he used to be,” Brown said. “Some of the things he did in our last game against Detroit were reminiscent of the things he did in Orlando. He still has a lot of room to grow. I remember those days (in Orlando). He was very, very, very, very … very, very, very, very … very, very, very, very, very, very, very hard to score on around the rim. He’s headed in the right direction, but he still has a ways to go.”
  • The Utah Jazz, back home after going 0-3 on a three-game road trip, will stick with their starting lineup of Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. The Jazz are still missing backup point guard Earl Watson, who continues to rehab a right knee injury.
  • Utah coach Tyrone Corbin saw his starters play inconsistently during the team’s 0-3 road trip. The Jazz played New Orleans even early on, fell behind by double digits against San Antonio and built a double-digit lead at Memphis before the reserves squandered it. Corbin said getting off to a good start against the Lakers tonight is imperative. ‘We gave ourselves a chance (at Memphis),” Corbin said. “We got to make sure we maintain that, and when the second group comes in, continue to build on that and figure out what rotation gives us the best chance to win long term.”
  • The Jazz have won five of the last seven games against the Lakers in Utah, and Brown knows his team is in for a challenge here tonight. “Their energy is fantastic here at home,” Brown said of the Jazz. “This is a team that gets a lot of juice from their crowd.”

Andrew Aragon

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