The Los Angeles Lakers have one more chance to improve their record before the All-Star Weekend break, hosting the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
Avery Bradley will join Carmelo Anthony and Kendrick Nunn on the sidelines, as the guard is grappling with left knee soreness. LeBron James was listed as questionable ahead of the game with a similar issue, but the four-time NBA champion should be able to play in the clash.
The Utah Jazz will face the Lakers without Rudy Gay, who’s been ruled out with a knee injury.
L.A. looked like a different team in the loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, playing with some visible chemistry for the first time in a while.
The Purple and Gold will need to stay connected on Wednesday night, not only because they are facing one of the NBA teams that have had gone through the fewest roster changes compared to last season — but also, because the Jazz are currently one of the league’s hottest teams.
Since going 4-12 in January, Utah has won its last six games. During that stretch, the Jazz have ranked as both the top-3 offense and defense, outscoring their rivals by an astonishing 18.5 points per 100 possessions.
The Lakers need to brace themselves for a cannonade of triples, as Utah ranks second in field goals attempts from beyond the arc and leads the league in the 3-pointers made.
Donovan Mitchell has been particularly dangerous from downtown lately, shooting 42.6% from deep on 9.4 attempts over the last six games.
It is likely Talen Horton-Tucker or Austin Reaves will replace Bradley in the starting lineup, as they should provide the Lakers with a more solid perimeter defense than Malik Monk.
Meanwhile, head coach Frank Vogel could dust off Dwight Howard for the clash after the center hasn’t played in the four last games.
Anthony Davis has been a force on the glass since returning from his MCL injury. But the 28-year-old superstar might need extra support in the paint on Wednesday, coming up against the NBA’s best rebounder in Rudy Gobert.
Gobert is averaging 14.9 boards this season. And when he sits, Hassan Whiteside comes in to battle rival big men in the paint, recording 7.8 rebounds per night.
As second chance opportunities make up for a huge chunk of Utah’s points, L.A. will need to put in extra effort to box out their opponents and prevent them from collecting offensive boards.
Also, the Lakers’ defense will need to watch out for the Jazz’s pick-and-roll game and iso plays, which yield points at a top-5 rate this year thanks to Gobert’s screens as well as Mitchell and Mike Conley’s drives into the paint.
The Purple and Gold have enjoyed some much-needed time off recently, playing just two games over the last week. They’ll certainly need those fresh legs to tame the league’s best offense.
Lakers (26-31) vs. Jazz (36-21)
7:30 p.m. PT, Feb. 16, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SF: Stanley Johnson
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Dwight Howard, Austin Reaves, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Royce O’Neale
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Hassan Whiteside, Eric Paschall, Danuel House Jr.
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