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- The Lakers will begin a stretch of seven out of eight games on the road with a revamped starting five. Antawn Jamison will start at power forward instead of Pau Gasol, who will sit out of Tuesday’s matchup with the Rockets and Wednesday’s game in New Orleans as he continues to battle knee tendinitis. Meanwhile, with guard Darius Morris struggling to fill the void while Steve Nash and Steve Blake are on the mend, coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shift the second-year player into a reserve role and start veteran Chris Duhon at point guard. “It didn’t make any sense to continue to push through [the pain] and continue to play at a lower percentage of my capability,” Gasol said. “We made [this decision] with the training staff … they’re the ones who agreed or told me to shut it down. … [Playing Wednesday] is out of the question. … I’m not guessing that it’s going to be two days, and my knees are going to be all wonderful all of a sudden. That would be kind of not realistic.”
- The “Hack-a-Howard” saga is likely to continue in Houston. Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson said it is an “easy decision” to “make [Lakers center Dwight Howard] make free throws.” Howard, who has shot 87-for-187 from the charity stripe this season, has connected on only 15 of 42 free-throw attempts in his last three outings.
- D’Antoni noted that his team has looked sluggish against young clubs that prefer an up-tempo style, which is exactly what the Lakers will face Tuesday. The Rockets, who are averaging 113.0 points on 49.9 percent (204-for-409) shooting from the field during a five-game winning streak at Toyota Center, have poured in 19.5 fast-break points per game over their last eight outings. “We have to play our pace. This is a pace game,” Sampson said. “Our ability to push it, stay spaced, attack gaps, find shooters and play unselfish basketball, that’s when we’re at our best.”
- Neither L.A. (8-9) nor Houston (8-8) is proficient at protecting the basketball. The Lakers, who commit more turnovers than any team in the NBA, have averaged 17.3 giveaways over their last six games. The Rockets have turned it over 16.3 times per game over their last eight contests.
– Matt Miller