The Lakers went 0-2 against the Golden State Warriors in their trip to China and now will look to get back on the winning track when they host the Utah Jazz tonight at Staples Center. The game tips off at 7:30 PM PST, much more reasonable than the 4:30 AM game times while the team was in China.
With the preseason winding down as opening night is merely a week away, these final preseason games will be key towards deciding who will get the final roster spots as well as continuing to develop chemistry amongst the team.
In their last game against the Warriors, the Lakers allowed Golden State to go on a 26-5 run in the third quarter to blow the game open. Golden State shot 58 percent from long range and forced the Lakers into 21 turnovers. Pau Gasol continued his solid preseason play with 16 points and seven rebounds and will have his work cut out for him against the Jazz.
The Jazz boast one of the best young frontcourt duos in the NBA with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, the latter of which just signed a four-year $49M extension with Utah. They are extremely strong, athletic, and a terror both defensively and on the glass. With Chris Kaman unlikely to play, Gasol will have to really work hard to get quality looks against this young front line. The Lakers were out-rebounded in their last game, so they must work hard to keep these bigs off the glass.
Veteran Richard Jefferson is far from the athlete he once was, but his ability to knock down open shots will make it difficult for Wesley Johnson or Nick Young to creep off of him too much defensively. On offense, Young should be able to exploit him as he lacks the explosiveness to keep up at this point in his career, but he is still a strong and active defender, capable of getting steals and blocks if they are too careless.
Gordon Hayward is one of the more underrated young wings in the league. He is deceptively athletic and possesses great length and shooting ability for the two-guard spot. With first round draft pick Trey Burke injured, John Lucas III mans the point guard spot for the Jazz. With his shooting ability, Lucas III is always capable of going on huge scoring bursts.
Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar all add something different to the Lakers, but Hayward would be too big for any of them to guard, so it is more likely we see Johnson, Young, or Xavier Henry matching up in this game. Farmar’s athleticism and speed have been welcome additions to the Lakers, especially on the defensive end as he racked up four steals in the last game against the Warriors.
Things To Look For
Battle For The Last Roster Spots – With the roster down to 16 players, Marcus Landry, Ryan Kelly, and Elias Harris continue to battle for the final two roster spots. Coach D’Antoni recently revealed that the Lakers could trim the roster to 14, meaning two of the aforementioned players could be gone, so expect those three guys in particular to go all out when their number is called to get on the court.
Landry’s jump shot has completely failed him to this point in the preseason, and a shooter who can’t make a shot better find another reason for the Lakers to keep him on the court. Kelly brings the ability to spread the floor at the stretch-4 position, but he was also 0-3 from deep in the Lakers’ last game against the Warriors. Harris generally looks competent when he is in the game, but doesn’t possess the shooting ability of the other two, which could be a deciding factor.
Whoever ends up making the roster, look for these guys in particular to show Coach D’Antoni what they can add to the Lakers.
Keeping Utah Off The Glass – The Lakers have been out-rebounded in each of their last three preseason losses, and things don’t get easier with the pair of big men they face tonight. But it doesn’t stop there as both Jefferson and Hayward are excellent rebounders at their respective positions, meaning it will be on the entire team to put a body on someone and keep the Jazz off the glass.
In order to run, the Lakers have to rebound, and they have struggled to do that so far as most of their players, especially the bigs, have a bad habit of simply turning around and jumping for the ball. If that is the case tonight, then expect Kanter, Favors, and Andris Biedrins to collect their fair share of offensive rebounds and for the Jazz to rack up second chance points.
Improving The Shooting – The Lakers have been abysmal shooting the ball this preseason. They are below 40 percent as a team through six games and Kaman is the only Laker shooting over 50 percent. It hasn’t been any better from deep as the Lakers are shooting under 30 percent as a team, with both Blake and Landry struggling immensely to find their shooting stroke.
The Jazz are not a lockdown defensive team and if the Lakers are ever going to get their shooting together, they need to start soon. The Lakers are likely to struggle defensively this season, so they will need to hit some shots if they plan on sniffing the playoffs. They won’t be this bad forever, so lets see if guys like Nash, Blake, Farmar, Johnson, and Jodie Meeks begin to heat up.
Utah Jazz (1-4) @ Los Angeles Lakers (2-4)
7:30 PM PST, October 22, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, NBA TV
Radio: ESPN LA 710
Jazz Projected Starting Lineup
PG: John Lucas III
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
Key Reserves: SG Alex Burcs SF Jeremy Evans PG Scott Machado C Andris Biedrins
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