TV: League Pass
- The Lakers will have center Dwight Howard back in the starting lineup when they host the Cavaliers tonight at Staples Center. Howard missed the last three games with a right shoulder injury. Starting power forward Pau Gasol will miss his fourth consecutive game with concussion symptoms, however. Without those two players, the Lakers lost all three games, extending their losing streak to six games — the longest in six years. Gasol was injured when he was inadvertently elbowed in the nose by Denver center JaVale Magee last Sunday. Howard was originally injured while getting fouled by Clippers forward Caron Butler on Jan. 4. He played against the Nuggets two days later, but re-aggravated the joint and underwent an MRI the next morning that revealed a slight tear where the labrum attaches to the bone. He was examined by a doctor about 45 minutes prior to the Cavaliers game and cleared to play. L.A. is nearing a desperate situation in the playoffs standings, sitting five games back of the eighth and final playoff spot.
- Earl Clark will continue to start in his Gasol’s place and will try to build on two straight solid performances, which could lead to additional playing time even after Gasol returns. The Lakers were further thinned up front when they learned Friday that they’d be without back-up forward Jordan Hill for the remainder of the season. Hill injured his hip against the Nuggets, an injury that will require surgery.
- Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving returned from a month-long absence with a finger injury to score 28 points against the Lakers and pass out a season-high 11 assists in a 100-94 victory on Dec. 11 in Cleveland. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game that he plans to use Kobe Bryant to defend Irving. Bryant, at 34, is 14 years older than Irving but could benefit from his three-inch height advantage and 17 years of NBA experience. Irving warmed up for this game by taking a career-high 26 shots in Friday’s loss in Denver, making 11.