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A Reunion in Name Only: Lakers vs. Rockets Preview

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With no Dwight Howard or Kobe Bryant, the main story line going into games between these two franchises is absent as well.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard returns to Los Angeles to face the team he spurned, and the man who has led them for 19 years. That would have been the main narrative tonight when the Houston Rockets visit Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. This is (again) not to be however, because Howard was once again injured in the Rocket's previous game. The last time the Rockets played against LA, the center formerly known as Superman missed the contest with an injured knee, and an undrafted rookie name Tarik Black started in his place (Black will also miss tonight's game, but he is now on the Lakers bench). This time, Howard will miss the game with a balky ankle, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen:

Kobe will of course also miss the game with his recent torn rotator cuff, so those hoping for more of this will be disappointed:

Even without their man in the middle, Houston still presents a formidable opponent for the Lakers. Led by MVP candidate James Harden (27.3 ppg, 6.8 apg, 5.5 rpg, 61.2% TS%), the Rockets will not just roll over without Howard. For the Lakers to have any chance tonight, they will need a boost from Jordan Clarkson, coming off of his most impressive performance of the season in his first start against San Antonio on Friday. Unfortunately for Clarkson, he will likely be covered by Houston's Patrick Beverley, a rugged defender who is allowing opponents to shoot only 46.5% from the field when covered by him according to NBA.com. The Lakers will also need to find a way to slow down the bearded one and the rest of Houston's offense on the other end, as the Rockets currently average a 103.6 offensive rating (14th in the league, but only two spots behind a Spurs team that just carved up the Lakers on Friday).

Will the Lakers be able to pull of an upset tonight against a Rockets squad missing it's wounded giant? Tune in to find out.

Time: 6:30 p.m. PT

Station: TWCSN