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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)

Washington Wizards (24-43) at Los Angeles Lakers (36-33), 10:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are both expected to return to the lineup Friday night when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Washington Wizards.

Bryant has missed two straight with an ankle sprain and Gasol has sat out the last 20 with a foot problem.

"I got to play up and down (today)," Gasol said after Wednesday's practice. "First time I got to play up and down since my injury. I played some 2-on-2's, 3-on-3's, (4-on-4's) and some half court. I felt good. I still feel a little soreness, but it's part of the process. It's a matter of feeling confident to be more explosive and make more aggressive moves off of it, so that'll be a mental thing."

Head coach Mike D'Antoni said the offense will change with both Dwight Howard and Gasol in the lineup because the Lakers will "be playing with two big guys instead of spreading the floor." Bryant, Metta World Peace, Gasol, Steve Nash and Howard have played just 17 games together this season.

The Lakers look to put a disappointing 99-76 road setback to the Phoenix Suns in the rear view mirror and haven't suffered two straight losses since a four- game slide from Jan. 17-23. The well-rested Lakers had won two in a row and six of seven games before Monday's clunker in the desert.

Playing without All-Star and five-time NBA champion Bryant for a second straight night, the Lakers were paced by Nash's 19 points. Howard totaled 16 points and 11 boards for Los Angeles, which occupies the eighth and final postseason berth in the West -- 1 1/2 games behind Houston and 1 1/2 games ahead of Utah.

"I think we ran out of gas and got in a couple of wrestling matches," D'Antoni said. "We just didn't play well, didn't shoot well, and didn't take care of the ball very well and got beat."

Howard failed to grab at least 12 rebounds for the first time since the All- Star break. He had a dozen or more boards in the previous 14 contests.

The Lakers are back in Hollywood, where they have won seven in a row and own a 23-11 mark. They will begin a four-game road trip against Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Sacramento after hosting the Wizards. L.A. is 10-4 at home against teams from the East.

Washington has won four of five and will resume its four-game road trip out west Friday in the City of Angels.

The Wizards are 1-1 on the trip and rebounded from a loss at Charlotte with Wednesday's 88-79 victory over the Suns, a team the Lakers failed to capitalize on in their previous outing. John Wall had 19 points and eight assists to pace Washington and Nene added 17 points and eight rebounds in the Wizards' sixth road win (6-26) of the season.

"You've got to be able to make plays offensively and defensively and that's what we were able to do," Wall said.

Wall is averaging 23.3 points, 9.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game in his last six games.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal re-injured his sprained left ankle during the fourth quarter and is questionable against the Lakers. Beal is averaging 13.9 points per game to go along with 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Wizards center Emeka Okafor is also questionable with flu-like symptoms.

The Wizards will close out the western jaunt Saturday at Golden State and lost the first meeting with the Lakers, a 102-96 decision in D.C. back on Dec. 14. Bryant had 30 points in that one for L.A., which has prevailed in 11 of the past 14 meetings between the teams.

Washington has lost four straight, five of six and 16 of its last 18 contests at the Lakers.

03/22 10:27:16 ET