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  • The Lakers will be without starting forward Pau Gasol for a fifth consecutive game when they host the Bucks tonight at Staples Center. Gasol suffered a concussion Jan. 6 when he was inadvertently elbowed in the nose by Denver backup center JaVale McGee. Gasol will continue to be evaluated on a daily basis and his availability for Thursday’s game against the visiting Heat is still undetermined.
  • Earl Clark will continue to start in Gasol’s absence and try to build on his growing popularity both with the crowd and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. Clark had appeared in just nine of the first 32 games when he was nominated by Denver coach George Karl to come off the bench and shoot the free throws after Gasol was injured and unable to get to the line. Clark calmly made both foul shots to cut the deficit to six with 1:05 remaining, then returned to the bench as the Lakers eventually lost, 112-105. Clark, who came to L.A. in the trade last summer that also brought over center Dwight Howard from Orlando, started the following game in Houston and had five points and nine rebounds. He’s averaging 15 points and 10.7 rebounds in the last three.
  • One of Clark’s strengths is his versatility as a defender. D’Antoni has used his length to guard players like Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and his quickness to stay with the likes of Manu Ginobili of the Spurs. Clark will have another interesting assignment against Milwaukee, opening the game against shooting guard Monta Ellis. That will allow the Lakers to use Kobe Bryant on Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings and Steve Nash on Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Boute. Look for Milwaukee to try and post up the 6-foot-8 Mbah a Boute against the 6-foot-3 Nash.
  • Much has changed since these teams last met, a 100-89 win by the Bucks on Jan. 28, 2012. The starting lineup for the Lakers that night was Bryant, Gasol, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum and Matt Barnes. Milwaukee played that game without Andrew Bogut, who had a suffered a season-ending ankle injury three days earlier, and Stephen Jackson, who was suspended just hours before tip-off. Both players are no longer with the organization.

– Dan Arritt

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