Pau Gasol will miss Tuesday’s game in Cleveland with tendinitis in both knees. This will be the fifth game in succession the Spaniard will miss with the injury. The 32-year-old last played on Dec. 2 in a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic.
Steve Nash’s return from injury is also delayed, as the point guard continues to work on jogging, ball handling and shooting. However, Nash has not been running and cutting at full speed, and coach Mike D’Antoni said he wants to see Nash play some 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 before putting him on the floor.
Until both Nash and Gasol return, the Lakers should continue to struggle with consistency.
On Tuesday, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and the struggling Lakers enter Quicken Loans Arena having lost four of their last five games. The Cavaliers, however, are on a five-game losing streak and have lost nine of their last 10.
Cleveland should be boosted by the return of second-year point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving missed the last 11 games after sustaining a fractured finger on his left hand. The Cavs were 2-8 with Irving and 2-9 without him, so Irving is not exactly the cure-all for this team.
However, Irving’s early return may spell bad news for the Lakers, who are playing with their third- and fourth-string point guards. Although Los Angeles should be able to overcome a Cavs team destined for the lottery, the Lakers have been especially vulnerable against energetic offensive rebounders like Anderson Verejao and speedy point guards like Irving.
Still, the Lakers have Bryant and Howard, who are far and away the best two players on either team. With that dynamic duo, the Lakers should break their two-game losing streak and start the four-game road trip with a much-needed victory.
Thursday features a nationally televised trip to Madison’s Square Garden to face the New York Knicks, currently the best team in the East. Bryant, Howard, and the able-bodied Lakers must take care of business on Tuesday and not get caught looking ahead to Thursday.
This one is an early tip-off: 4 p.m. Pacific Time from Cleveland
Update: Jordan Hill is set to start in place of Antawn Jamison