LA, five games under .500 in the middle of January, desperately needs to protect their home court against Milwaukee, especially with a primetime showdown against Miami on Thursday.
The Bucks seem to have responded well to interim coach Jim Boylan, who's moved his record to 3-1 since Scott Skiles stepped down last week. Brandon Jennings, their inconsistent but talented young PG, has been on a tear, averaging 24.5 points a game since the coaching change. A Compton native, he likely circled this game against his hometown team when the schedule first came out.
Jennings will certainly have his chances against Steve Nash and an aging group of perimeter players for the Lakers, who have been unable to keep their men in front of them for most of the season.
After missing a week with a shoulder injury, Dwight Howard is coming off one of his best games all season, with 22 points and 14 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting against Cleveland. However, he's still clearly not 100% since offseason back surgery and there's no way to know which version shows up against Milwaukee.
The Bucks have one of the longest and athletic front lines in the NBA, a tough challenge for an undersized LA team without Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. Earl Clark, a throw-in to the Howard trade who has quickly become a fan favorite, will need to have another solid game as the starting PF.
Both teams are on their second head coach this season, but no one in November would have guessed Milwaukee would have the better record at this point. However, despite the differences in their records, LA is still favored by 6 points.