The Lakers and Wizards tip off tonight for the second and final time this year, more than one month after L.A. defeated Washington 103-91 in the Capital City. That game marked the second on the Lakers’ season-long nine-game road trip and more importantly, the final contest before the Pau Gasol era began in Los Angeles two nights later in New Jersey. An obviously re-energized Kobe Bryant had an extremely efficient 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field, while four other Lakers reached double figures.
Although there was some initial hope that superstar Gilbert Arenas would return to the Wizards this season, possibly sometime around tonight’s matchup, the guard’s comeback bid has been put on hold for the time being. The Wiz have done an admirable job without their best player all season, compiling a 38-34 record that currently has them seated fifth in the Eastern Conference. Washington is currently in the middle of a five-game western road trip that saw them lose their first game in Portland, before winning their last two contests in Seattle and Sacramento.
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler continue to have outstanding seasons for the Wizards, with Jamison averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler tacking on another 21 to go along with nearly seven rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson (11 points) and Brendan Haywood (11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) are also quietly having very solid seasons to help keep the Wizards afloat without Arenas.
The Lakers desperately need a win after inexcusably losing consecutive home games to lowly Charlotte on Wednesday and Memphis on Friday. Although earlier last week, the team expressed optimism that the injured Gasol would return tonight, his return has now been pushed back to this Wednesday versus Portland at the earliest meaning the team will once again have to find a way to control the paint against the Wizards.