Lakers Try to Stop Jazz
Pau Gasol's arrival sparked the Los Angeles Lakers' longest winning streak of the season, but he hasn't been available to help them snap this season's two most impressive runs.
Gasol is expected to miss his third straight game Thursday night when the Lakers try to stop the Utah Jazz from setting a franchise record for consecutive home wins.
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Gasol has helped solidify Los Angeles' status as a top contender in the Western Conference after being acquired in a trade with Memphis on Feb. 1. The Lakers are 15-3 in games he has played at least 28 minutes, including a season-high 10-game winning streak from Feb. 8-28.
The veteran big man, though, has missed two straight games after injuring his left ankle in a loss to New Orleans on Friday night and isn't expected to play Thursday in the finale of Los Angeles' four-game road trip.
He sat out the second game of this swing and the Lakers lost 104-92 to Houston, which was the Rockets' 22nd straight win - the second-longest winning streak in league history. Houston, which is battling Los Angeles for first place in the Western Conference, then lost 94-74 to league-best Boston in its next game.
Now, Gasol will be sidelined again as Utah tries to extend a 19-game home winning streak. That matches the longest such run in Jazz history, set from Jan. 19-March 29, 1996 and again from Dec. 13, 1989 to March 3, 1990.
Los Angeles has lost six of its last eight games at Utah, including a 120-96 defeat on Nov. 30. The Lakers, though, averaged 121.0 points in winning their two home games against the Jazz this season.
Los Angeles has shot under 42 percent in each of its last three games, but managed to top 100 points for the first time over that stretch in a 102-100 win over Dallas on Tuesday night for its first victory in three games.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant finished with 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting, but his teammates combined to make only 37.8 percent (25-for-66) of their shots. Bryant jammed his hip, but isn't expected to miss any time.
"I'm good. I'm straight," said Bryant, who is averaging 33.5 points while shooting 44.4 percent (20-for-45) from 3-point range in his last six road games versus the Jazz. "I jammed my hip into the socket. It hurt for a minute and then released. I'm fine."
Losing the MVP front-runner would be devastating for the Lakers, who don't know when Gasol will return. Before Tuesday's game, coach Phil Jackson also said center Andrew Bynum probably won't return until the playoffs.
Utah also is dealing with injuries entering this contest. Carlos Boozer had 13 points and 10 rebounds in a 96-79 win over Toronto on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, but left the game two minutes early with a strained back. But Boozer, averaging a team-high 21.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, is probable.
Jazz starting center Mehmet Okur, meanwhile, left in the first quarter due to a stomach flu and his status is uncertain. Okur is averaging 14.0 points, but has been held to a total of 17 in two games against the Lakers this season.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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