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13-19

Bucks-Lakers Preview

AP - Sports

Pau Gasol is set to return for the Los Angeles Lakers after some controversy over his absence.

Gasol will try to help the Lakers end their season-high losing streak at five games Tuesday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Lakers power forward has missed two straight games with a respiratory infection, but returned to practice Monday. He was breathing hard and it appeared his nose was still congested afterward.

"Just coughing, not being able to breathe, just really stuffed up, all my cavities are affected," Gasol said. "It is what it is. You gotta play through it. I needed those days to try to get the worst part out of the way."

Some of his teammates were reportedly unhappy that Gasol sat out Sunday's 111-104 home loss to Philadelphia since it was his decision not to play. Coach Mike D'Antoni addressed the situation Monday.

"(It's) very unfortunate that a teammate would even think about that, much less say it in the media," D'Antoni said. "That is not right, and that is definitely wrong. Pau was sick, and he's getting better now and he'll be ready tomorrow."

Gasol is second on the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game and averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds. He said his focus was on helping Los Angeles (13-18) sweep the remainder of this four-game homestand.

"My teammates want me to be on the floor, they count on me so that's it," Gasol said. "I just have to do my best to deliver and be support(ive) for my teammates and make sure that we get through these next three games with a positive note. Our goal is to win these next three, no matter how, no matter what."

The injury-plagued Lakers suffered another blow Sunday when guard Xavier Henry left with a strained right knee that will sideline him for at least another week.

Los Angeles will welcome another Eastern Conference lightweight to town, as league-worst Milwaukee (6-24) begins a three-game trip. The Bucks have lost eight of nine, and are 0-6 against West foes.

"I think the road is one of the best places to get well," coach Larry Drew said. "We're going on a three-game road trip. I think when you go out on the road, there's more of a sense kind of, of urgency."

Drew won't have center John Henson, who will miss this trip with a sprained left ankle.

Another second-year pro who will see action is Khris Middleton, a small forward averaging 21.0 points on 51.7 percent shooting over his last four games.

"He's shooting it with confidence, that's the one thing that I do notice," Drew said. "He's shooting it with confidence, he's shooting it within rhythm. Khris is a good shooter."

He's one of the few Bucks shooting with confidence since Milwaukee's 42.0 field-goal percentage is one of the league's worst marks.

This contest also pits the league's worst teams in rebound margin, with Milwaukee at minus-4.8 and Los Angeles at minus-4.7.

"That's been one of our problems thus far this year," Drew said. "We talk about giving up the offensive rebound. We have to be physical."

The Bucks have won three of the last four matchups after dropping the previous six.

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