The Los Angeles Lakers — at the lowest point of their season — face their toughest battle yet as they face the red-hot Utah Jazz and try to avoid a four-game losing streak.
After a mediocre 4-4 start to the season, the Jazz have won 21 of their past 23 games and are currently in the middle of a 14-game home winning streak. If that isn’t impressive enough, the Jazz have won many of those games against other contenders, including wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, L.A. Clippers and Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers head into Salt Lake City at an inopportune time. Anthony Davis is just one week into a minimum four-week rehab for a calf strain and Achilles tendonosis. Meanwhile, Dennis Schroder will miss his fourth consecutive game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Schroder could potentially return on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers. While other players such as LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma are listed on the injury report, they are all likely to play.
The Lakers will need the game of a lifetime from several different sources if they want to win against the Jazz. Losers of four out of their last five, L.A. is struggling mightily to score points and have become extremely reliant on their defense.
Most of the Jazz’s offensive production comes from their guards, as they are one of the best shooting teams in the NBA. Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley are their three leading scorers, with 3-point specialist Bojan Bogdanovic close behind.
Utah also has perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, who was recently selected to another All-Star Game. Gobert is averaging just 13.9 points, but has 13.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game to back that up. Marc Gasol will have his work cut out for him in a game where he will likely need to be on the floor a lot.
The Jazz run an extremely thin rotation, with only seven players averaging more than 16 minutes per night, and just nine getting more than seven minutes. However, these nine players have become a well-oiled machine, and the Lakers undoubtedly have their work cut out for them.
Lakers (22-10) vs. Jazz (25-6)
7:00 p.m. PT, Feb. 24, 2021
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Markieff Morris
Projected Jazz starting lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Royce O’Neale
PF: Bojan Bogdanovic
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Georges Niang
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