The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit of the Play-In Tournament qualification takes them to Salt Lake City next, where they’ll face the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.
The Lakers will still be without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who appear to target the rear end of this back-to-back for their return. Wenyen Gabriel was listed as questionable to play after he sprained his ankle in the loss to the Dallas Mavericks but is expected to play.
Utah center Hassan Whiteside will sit out the clash due to a right foot sprain. But Bojan Bogdanovic and Danuel House Jr. make their comebacks having spent two weeks on the sidelines with a calf strain and knee bone bruise, respectively.
The Jazz have struggled more than L.A. over the last couple of weeks, entering the Thursday matchup on the back of a five-game losing streak. The once-red-hot Utah offense has gone cold, as its shooting percentages from both the field and beyond the arc rank in the bottom-10 since mid-March.
That’s a promising sign for the Lakers considering they just gave up 82 first-half points in the loss to the Mavericks — the most in the Los Angeles era and one short of matching their all-time record from 1959.
The Purple and Gold couldn’t catch up with the speed Dallas passed the ball around, in big part thanks to the magnificence of Luka Doncic. But they will face a much different offense when they square off with the Jazz, who rank 27th in assists but thrive in iso plays and pick-and-roll action between Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, and Rudy Gobert.
Utah has been a favorable matchup for the Lakers this season, who lead the season series 2-0, partly because of its inability to force turnovers — which L.A. is very prone to. Limiting mistakes and keeping up the good effort on offense will exponentially increase the Purple and Gold’s chances of snatching a much-needed win.
The Lakers have been shooting 51.2% from the field over the last two weeks, a fourth-best clip in the NBA during that stretch, and a 10th-best 37% from deep. Such offensive efficiency, combined with any sort of improvement on last game’s defensive performance, could allow the Purple and Gold to stun the Jazz once again this season.
The Lakers enjoyed a rare taste of luck over the last couple of weeks, as the San Antonio Spurs’ loss bumped them up to 10th in the Western Conference, which would be enough to secure a Play-In Spot. Now it’s L.A.’s turn to make the most of the gift and jump further ahead of the Spurs with just a few games left in the season.
Lakers (31-44) vs. Jazz (45-31)
7:00 p.m. PT, March 31, 2022
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: Wenyen Gabriel
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Stanley Johnson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Augustin
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Royce O’Neale
PF: Juancho Hernangomez
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Rudy Gay, Greg Monroe, Jordan Clarkson
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