The Los Angeles Lakers are just three days removed from a 14-point loss at the hands of the Utah Jazz. And on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers travel to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz once again, this time without LeBron James and Lonnie Walker IV.
After a two-game stretch in which the Lakers looked like a renewed roster, they have dropped two in a row by 14 points and have started to slip from their elite defensive start. They also have the NBA’s least efficient offense, ranking 30th with an offensive rating of 102.7.
On Monday night, the offense may struggle even further with Walker and James out of the lineup. Walker has been ruled out with the same non-COVID illness that Patrick Beverley is out with while James is out in the second of the back-to-back with left foot soreness.
Walker has been a bright spot in an otherwise poor scoring attack, and although James has looked a step slow to begin the season, he remains L.A.’s leading scorer with 24.3 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have been the darlings of the NBA in the first 10 games. They have defied all expectations with an 8-3 start, ranking eighth on both offense and defense with the league’s sixth-best net rating. Their unselfish, role-player-driven style of play has allowed them to excel.
The Lakers — in order to have any chance of securing their third victory of the season — must return to relying on their top-five defense. This quickly becomes a vital game for Davis, who is currently listed as probable and will likely play on Monday night.
He has been the anchor of the Lakers’ surprisingly elite defense, but has taken criticism for a passive nature on the offensive end. The two-man game of Davis and Russell Westbrook is vital for L.A. to score enough points to get past Utah.
Luckily, Westbrook has been phenomenal since making the move to the bench unit. He’ll have a chance to expand on that with an expectation that he’ll return to the starting lineup. James, Walker and Patrick Beverley all being out all but guarantees Westbrook’s move to the starting unit.
If he and Davis can hit shots with consistency and get to the rim with ease, the Lakers absolutely can stay competitive long enough to steal a win. But the disciplined Jazz won’t make life easy for the two Lakers stars.
Other players who may see an uptick in playing time are Austin Reaves, Matt Ryan, Troy Brown Jr. and Kendrick Nunn. Reaves, Ryan and Brown have been impressive on the wings for L.A. this season, while Nunn has struggled mightily on both ends of the floor. Perhaps a more defined role could give Nunn some momentum.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-7) vs. Utah Jazz (8-3)
7:15 p.m. PT, November 7, 2022
Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Wenyen Gabriel
Key Reserves: Juan Toscano-Anderson, Matt Ryan, Kendrick Nunn, Max Christie, Damian Jones
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Malik Beasley
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Kelly Olynyk
Key Reserves: Collin Sexton, Rudy Gay, Walker Kessler, Talen Horton-Tucker, Nickell Alexander-Walker
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