For the first time in almost two months, the Los Angeles Lakers will have their full complement of stars.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are scheduled to return on Friday as L.A. takes on the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. Bryant hasn’t played in a week with a sprained ankle and Gasol hasn’t been on the court since early February because of a foot injury.
Bryant will start in place of Jodie Meeks, who averaged seven points in the All-Star shooting guard’s absence. Gasol is expected to start in place of Earl Clark, who has started 33 games this season.
In the offseason, the Lakers became the favorites in the West when they paired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash with Bryant and Gasol. However, the group has barely played together because of injuries, with all four stars being healthy for just 17 games.
Both Gasol and Bryant will play, but they might not be on the court for the length of time that they are accustomed to. The seven-footer is expected to play limited minutes after sitting out for so many games. According to head coach Mike D’Antoni, Gasol’s conditioning doesn’t have him in shape to play as many minutes as he did earlier in the year.
Even with the injuries, though, the Lakers have been on a hot streak. They’ve lost just four times since the All-Star Break, and have taken hold of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Wizards are virtually out of postseason contention, but have played much better than their 0-12 start. Since John Wall has come back from injury, Washington is over .500 with a 19-15 record.
The Lakers had one of their worst performances of the season in their last contest. They lost to the Phoenix Suns by 23, scoring just 76 points.
On Friday, L.A. will come into the game on four days rest. They should be fresh to play the Wizards, who last played on Wednesday.
The Lakers are expected to win fairly easily in Bryant and Gasol’s return. They are favored by 8.5 points at most Las Vegas casinos.
Tip-off is set for 10:30 p.m. ET at Staples Center. Viewers can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.
Prediction: Los Angeles 100, Washington 90