TV: League Pass
- Lakers center Dwight Howard will be in the starting lineup when L.A. hosts the Jazz tonight at Staples Center. Howard left Wednesday’s loss in Memphis after re-injuring his right shoulder late in the first half. Howard suffered a partial tear in his labrum earlier this month against the Clippers, causing him to sit out three straight losses against Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. He returned to average 22 points and 15.3 rebounds over the next three games, but has averaged five points and 4.3 rebounds in the last three. He was also ejected early in Sunday’s loss in Toronto, the second time in less than a month the seven-time All Star has been tossed from a game. He had not been ejected his previous eight years in the NBA.
- Utah center Al Jefferson has been playing well lately but will have his hands full with Howard back in the lineup. Jefferson has struggled against the Lakers in his career, anyway, averaging 15 points in 21 games and shooting 42.6 percent from the field. His next lowest career field-goal percentage is 45.5 against Washington. In the last five games this season, he’s averaging 18.2 points and 10.4 rebounds. He recorded 23 points and 11 rebounds in a 104-97 victory Jan. 14 against the visiting Heat.
- If the Jazz beat the Lakers tonight, they would finish with a regular-season sweep against L.A. for the first time in franchise history. Utah beat the visiting Lakers on Nov. 7, dropping them to 1-4 and leading to the firing of coach Mike Brown two days later. They traveled to L.A. on Dec. 9 and won, 117-110, dropping Brown’s replacement, Mike D’Antoni, to 4-9 since taking over the team. Utah owns a four-game winning streak against the Lakers overall, their longest such streak against their Western Conference rival. The Jazz have won their last four games overall this season, which matches their winning longest streak.
– Dan Arritt