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● The injuries don’t seem to end for the snake-bitten Lakers this year. Though they expect Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Steve Nash back tonight, they also learned today that Pau Gasol is now out a minimum of two weeks after straining his right groin. Nash is expected to play the first five to eight minutes of each half as part of a restricted effort.

● The return of Nash and Blake forces Kendall Marshall back to the bench. Marshall has been a revelation for the Lakers this year after being pegged as a D-League prospect.  Marshall racked up nine double-doubles in his 15 games as a starter while showing unanticipated speed and court vision and knocking down 3’s at a 45.5 percent clip. The Lakers will have to determine how to balance his development while playing their veterans in what has become a lost season for them.

● The Timberwolves are balancing on the cusp of a disappointing season as well, and have been unable to get on the kind of sustained run required to move up in the brutal Western Conference. Their longest winning streak is just three games – a number that also matches their longest losing streak. After finally crawling back over .500 at 23-22, they’ve dropped their past two and fallen four games behind Dallas for the final playoff spot. Despite early season playoff aspirations, their 20th-ranked defense and inability to win close games leaves them on the outside looking in.

● The good news for one team tonight is that an end will come to a dubious streak. The Wolves have lost their last 11 home games to the Lakers, while the Lakers are in the midst of a six-game losing streak overall. The challenge seems more daunting for the Lakers, however, as they will have to figure out some defensive schemes to stop Minnesota’s third-ranked offense that’s racking up 105.9 points per game. The task will be all the more difficult given the Lakers have given up 100 or more points in their last 14 games – their longest such streak since 1986-87.

– Peter Kapsner

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