TV: League Pass
- The Lakers will have All-Star center Dwight Howard and back-up forward/center Jordan Hill available when they host the Nuggets tonight at Staples Center. Both were injured during Friday’s loss to the Clippers. Howard suffered a strained right shoulder when he was fouled by Caron Butler while driving to the basket in the third quarter. Howard was in obvious discomfort for several minutes after the injury, but remained in the game following a timeout. Hill was having one of his better games of the season when he twisted his right ankle early in the fourth quarter and hobbled to the bench. He did not return, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds. Their presence will be a key against the Nuggets, who are second in the league in rebounding and tops in points in the paint.
- In addition to trying to handle the unrelenting inside pressure from Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, the Lakers will also need to find an answer for hot-shooting Danilo Gallinari. The 6-10 “small” forward is shooting 18-for-35 from 3-point range in the last six games. In two games against the Lakers this season, Gallinari is 7-for-12 from beyond the arc. Look for Metta World Peace to pick up that defensive assignment early on.
- Denver point guard Ty Lawson has been bothered by a sore left Achilles tendon the past couple weeks, an injury that eventually caused him to miss Tuesday’s victory against the Clippers, which ended their 17-game winning streak. Lawson has played two games since and shot 50 percent or better from the field in both games. He hasn’t reached that mark in three consecutive games since last season. Steve Nash will likely draw that early defensive assignment. If the 25-year-old Lawson can provide a burst of speed, that could spell problems for the Nash, who will turn 39 next month.
- When these teams met on Dec. 26, Nuggets back-up forward Corey Brewer matched his career high with 27 points, making 6 of 7 from 3-point range. Unfortunately, that display is looking more like an aberration than a trend. Brewer was 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the three games preceding that game and is 3-for-19 in the five games since.
– Dan Arritt