The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a 111-102 Christmas night victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov each scored 19 points to lead the Lakers. All together the Lakers had seven players score in double figures.
This was one of the most complete games the team has played all season, they moved the ball on offense and played solid defense for most of the night. In order for the Lakers to have success, they must play the same way as they did on against the Clippers. Tonight they face a very much-improved Utah Jazz team who has already defeated the Lakers twice this season.
The Jazz are coming off a 104-98 loss to the Toronto Raptors last Friday night. Gordon Hayward led the team with 23 points and five assists. Rudy Gobert did his job and secured a game-high 14 rebounds. If the Lakers want to pick up their second straight win, they must do a good job containing Hayward and Gobert as they both have killed the Lakers in past games.
Rodney Hood and Shelvin Mack, who will most likely start as Dante Exum is suffering from left knee tendinitis, hold down the Jazz backcourt. Hood has always been a thorn in the Lakers side whenever both teams play against each other. He scored 16 points in the Jazz’s Dec. 5 win at Staples Center, including a couple of clutch shots in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Lakers must do a good job defending Hood because if he starts to get going early, the Lakers will probably find themselves in an early hole from the get-go.
Mack has been a nice player for the Utah. He’s averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists per game. He also seems to play well against the Lakers. He gives the Jazz another playmaker who can knockdown shots and set up teammates for quality looks. He must be identified by the Lakers when he is on the court because if they do not, he will find a way to take advantage.
Although Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson both play at the small forward position, they both have spent time in the backcourt as George Hill and Exum battle injuries. Johnson is a proven scorer in the league, and even though he does not have the same firepower as earlier in his career, he can still put the ball through the hoop pretty well. Ingles is a very good floor spacer, he is currently shooting 47.7 percent from behind the three-point line. In the last meeting between the teams, he knocked down some timely shots to help his team to victory. The Lakers must make sure neither player erupts offensively tonight.
D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young have played extremely well for the Lakers this season. Young has been one of the team’s best player. Not only does he knock down shots consistently, his defense has been great. He will likely guard Hayward at times tonight and he will counted on to make things difficult for him.
Russell has been a consistent presence in the Lakers backcourt. He has the ability to create for himself and his teammates, which makes things much easier for the team. Even though he has struggled with consistency this season, his comfort level has seemed to increase in recent weeks. The Lakers will need him to have a good game tonight to keep pace with a good Utah backcourt.
Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson have been nothing short of great for the Lakers. Williams has been a potent scorer off the bench, currently averaging 18.7 points per game. The team relies on him to score the ball when he is on the floor and so far he has proven he can be counted on. While Clarkson has had a good season , he needs to do a better job of making decisions on the court. When he is thinking quickly, he players better and more efficiently. He needs to have good game tonight for the Lakers to come out with a win.
The Utah frontcourt is a very formidable one as Gordon Hayward, Boris Diaw, and Rudy Gobert hold it down. Hayward is one the best two-play players in the league. He is averaging 22 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game while often guarding the opposing team’s best player. He has a high basketball IQ that helps him make the right play for himself and his teammates.
While Diaw does not possess elite athleticism or quickness, he is one the smartest players in the game. He is an excellent passer for a big man and is also capable of knocking down open shots. The Lakers must keep an eye on him defensively as Diaw will find ways to take advantage of miscommunication from the Lakers.
Gobert absolutely destroyed the Lakers in their last meeting. He finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. He gives the Jazz a big defensive presence in the paint that can alter and block shots. If the Lakers hope to win tonight, they must do a better of making sure Gobert does not have a similar game as their last meeting.
Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles give the Jazz good depth off the bench. Normally a starter, Favors is being eased into the rotation after just coming back from injury. Even still, Favors is a big body that can bully his way toward the basket for easy baskets. He is also another player who seems to always play well against the Lakers so it is important he is kept in-check. Lyles is a versatile player who can spread the floor. He is currently shooting 40.2 percent from the field.
Mozgov has been playing really well as of late for the Lakers. As stated earlier, he finished with 19 points in the win against the Clippers while also limiting the impact of DeAndre Jordan. Tonight he will need to keep Gobert off the glass. If Gobert is able to rebound like he did in their last meeting, the Lakers will have a difficult time getting a victory.
Luol Deng has been great the past few games. He has found his rhythm after struggling to begin the season. When he is able to score like way he has, he gives the team another solid scoring option in the starting lineup. He will also probably tasked with guarding Hayward tonight at times, so he will need to use his experience to try and force him into tough shots.
Julius Randle will need to use his strength tonight against the Jazz frontcourt. If Diaw is guarding him, Randle should be able to take advantage of his quickness to get to the basket. His main priority tonight should be to make sure he boxes out his opponent so he doesn’t give up any offensive rebounds.
Thomas Robinson and Brandon Ingram give the Lakers energy and length off the bench. Robinson’a forte is his constant hustle and he will need to use that tonight against an active Jazz team. Ingram was noticeably more aggressive against the Clippers and it served him well as he finished with 10 points and six rebounds. The more aggressive he is, the faster he will find his offensive rhythm.
3 Keys to Victory
If the Lakers can limit their turnovers tonight they will be good shape to earn a win. The last thing they want to do is act recklessly with ball and let the Jazz get easy baskets. Against the Clippers, the Lakers only had 13 turnovers, which translated into one their most complete games of the season on the offensive end.
The Lakers are currently the fourth fastest team in the NBA while the Jazz rank dead last in pace. The Lakers must get out in the open court as the Jazz are very difficult to deal with in the half court, especially on defense. Whoever can get the tempo they want will have a major advantage.
Perhaps the most important objective tonight is to keep the Jazz off the glass, especially Gobert. Gobert dominated the glass in their meeting earlier this month and it was the difference in the game. Mozgov, Randle, Deng, and Robinson must make sure they do a good job of boxing out and not let their man get offensive rebounds.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-22) Vs. Utah Jazz (18-13)
7:30 P.M. PST, December 27, 2016
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Shelvin Mack
SG: Rodney Hood
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Boris Diaw
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Thomas Robinson, Lou Williams, and Brandon Ingram