• The Lakers enter their game tonight against the visiting Rockets with the satisfaction of knowing they clinched a playoff spot after the Grizzlies knocked off the Jazz earlier in the evening. The Lakers, at one time 20-26 and five games back of the Jazz on Jan. 31, have gone 24-11 since then to put them in a playoff spot. Up for grabs still tonight is the No. 7 seed in the West. The winner will meet the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will play the top-seeded Thunder.
  • Lakers point guard Steve Nash will miss his eighth consecutive game with hip and hamstring injuries. The Lakers are hoping Steve Blake continues to fill the void the way he has been lately. He scored 23 points in Sunday’s win against the Spurs and had 14 points and five assists in Friday’s win against visiting Golden State, which was when Kobe Bryant went down with a torn left Achilles’ tendon with about three minutes left. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game that Nash had played half-court one-on-one earlier in the day and looked good.
  • When Lakers center Dwight Howard grabs his first rebound tonight, he’ll become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 9,000 in his career, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain by 14 days. The 27-year-old Howard is in his 9th NBA season. He’ll need much more than that for the Lakers to be successful against one of the top interior teams in the league. Houston is ranked third in the NBA in points-in-the-paint (46.2) and has scored 60 points in the paint eight times this season.
  • The Rockets entered the day ranked No. 1 in the league in points per game at 106.1, just ahead of the Nuggets (106.0) and the Thunder (105.9). The only other time Houston led the league in scoring was 1972-73, when the Rockets were coached by Tex Winter. He went on to assists Phil Jackson to six NBA Championships with the Bulls in the 1990s, followed by three with the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

– Dan Arritt

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