Friday's game: Wizards-Lakers preview

Friday's game: Wizards-Lakers preview
March 21, 2013, 11:00 pm
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Wizards vs. Lakers

at Staples Center

TV: CSN, 10:30 p.m. ET

Season series: Lakers lead 1-0.

Last meeting: The Wizards lost 102-96 on Dec. 14 at Verizon Center. Kobe Bryant overcame back spasms to score 30 points and Jodie Meeks, a reserve, contributed 24. PG Steve Nash and PF Paul Gasol didn't play because of leg injuries. The Wizards didn't have several key players, including PG John Wall who had a knee injury and his backup A.J. Price with a hand fracture. The Lakers broke open a close game with a 25-14 advantage in the third quarter.

Previous game: The Wizards beat at Phoenix Suns 88-79 on Wednesday to improve to 24-43. The Lakers lost at the Suns 99-76 on Monday to fall to 36-33.

Projected starting lineups: Wizards –- PG Wall, SG Garrett Temple, SF Martell Webster, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor. Lakers –- PG Nash, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Metta World Peace, PF Earl Clark, C Dwight Howard.

Pivotal matchup: Okafor vs. Howard. Even if Bryant can play through a left ankle sprain, the Lakers will rely more heavily on Howard to generate offense. Okafor has quietly played well for the Wizards, averaging 17 points and 9.5 rebounds in his last two games. He has shot the mid-range jumper with confidence, which could pull Howard away from the rim and make him defensively more vulnerable. But flu-like symptoms forced him to miss his first game of the season in Phoenix. If he's not able to go again, little-used backup Jason Collins will get the call.

Trending upward: SF Trevor Ariza, who sat out recently because of soreness in his left knee, appears to have rebounded. He had 14 points to spark the bench.  Combined with backup C Kevin Seraphin, they shot 13-for-21.

Trending downward: The Wizards' ball-handling turned sloppy again. They had 21 turnovers in Phoenix, a sharp reversal of their recent play at home. They also missed nine free throws. ... SG Bradley Beal didn't get X-Rays after rolling his left ankle but is unlikely to play. He did get treatment Thursday, the team said. ... Price (groin) has missed five games in a row.

He said it: “Defensively, that's what we take our pride in. When we play defense, we feel we can beat anybody." -- Wall, after the Wizards allowed the Suns to shoot 50% in the first quarter they held them to 28% (17-for-61) in the final three.

Around the bend: Saturday at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET; Monday vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 7. All games on CSN.