The Lakers (18-35) will finally get a crack to play against Dwight Howard at Staples Center on Wednesday night, when the Houston Rockets (36-17) visit for the first time this season.
Houston has surged recently, winning seven in a row to climb to third in the Western Conference.
Both the Lakers and Rockets have struggled with injuries this season, but the Lakers have had it far worse.
Houston is finally healthy while the Lakers are still missing Steve Nash (nerve-root irritation), Kobe Bryant (knee/Achilles), Nick Young (knee) and Xavier Henry (knee).
Pau Gasol (groin) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) are questionable while Jodie Meeks will make his return from an ankle injury.
Howard is currently fourth in the league in rebounding at 12.5 a game. Offensively, the former Laker is scoring 18.8 points on 58.1% shooting.
The Lakers will counter with Gasol, if he can play; otherwise it'll be Chris Kaman starting at center.
Over his last three games, Kaman has averaged 23.7 points and 11.3 rebounds, although the Lakers lost all three.
Howard's biggest weakness is free-throw shooting: this season he's shot 54.6% from the line.
Gasol has struggled in two games against Houston, shooting only 39.1% from the field while averaging 11.5 points and 11.0 rebounds.
The Rockets score 105.5 points a night.
The Lakers are not a good defensive team. In addition to having to deal with Howard, the Lakers will have to try to slow James Harden (23.9 points a game), Chandler Parsons (17.0), Jeremy Lin (13.3) and Terrence Jones (11.7).
When the Lakers were at full strength, they had a long list of double-digit (or near double-digit) scorers, but that was a long time ago.
Now the Lakers are doing their best to survive with what they have available.
Getting Meeks back should help. In 48 games, including 41 starts, he is averaging 14.4 points a game while shooting 44.9% from the field and 40.3% from three-point range.
The Lakers need to lose just about every game they can for lottery position but the home fans will certainly be rooting for their team to beat Howard and the Rockets.
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