The Los Angeles Lakers concluded their three-game homestand Friday night, with a tough loss to the Toronto Raptors. After holding a double-digit lead throughout the first half, the offense got cold and the Lakers faltered down the stretch. However, Luke Walton’s team must turn the page, as they arrive at the Vivint Smart Home Arena to take on the Utah Jazz.
Walton made a bold statement during the fourth quarter last night, benching his starters in what he called a learning lesson. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were held to average scoring performances, with Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, and Kyle Kuzma leading the way. In the end, the NBA is known for its quick turnarounds, and the 2-3 Lakers must bounce back against a team that has looked rather impressive this season.
After opening the season 2-1, the Jazz have suffered consecutive losses to Pacific Division opponents in the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, as the Lakers attempt to make it three. The Jazz have assembled somewhat of a new rotation now that Gordon Hayward is gone, with a deadly pick-and-roll combination that causes problems to most NBA teams.
The Jazz backcourt starts with offseason acquisition Ricky Rubio, a deadly magician on the basketball court. As one of the premier passers in the NBA, he certainly knows how to find his open teammates while executing the offense. Although he isn’t known for it, Rubio has taken on more of a scoring role with his new team.
At the same time, he can defer to teammates like sharpshooter Rodney Hood, who the Lakers are all too familiar with. The lefty can shoot with the best of them, while now developing a knack for attacking the basket off the closeout. He requires a man constantly on-ball, meaning the Lakers will have a difficult time sagging off of rotations.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell will also be making an appearance off the bench, with an impressive game against Los Angeles during the preseason. Backup point guard Raul Neto is a pesky defender coming off the bench, something the Lakers will need to account for.
The Lakers will counter with their usual backcourt of Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a quick running duo which has started to make their defensive presence felt. Ball has shown off his rather quick hands against the likes of John Wall and Kyle Lowry, while Caldwell-Pope’s lateral quickness and on-ball defense is the basis for their backcourt.
Walton desperately needs consistent offensive production from the backcourt moving forward, while Ball continues acclimating himself to the NBA. The Lakers have been successful scoring off the bench, with Jordan Clarkson running the point for the bench unit.
Clarkson entered the 2017-18 campaign aggressive and aiming for the Sixth Man of the Year Award for Walton. Although he sometimes can get caught up in an otherwise stagnant offense, the Lakers need his scoring punch off the bench.
Josh Hart has also turned into a pleasant surprise off the bench, showing off his impressive defense with many crucial steals and deflected passes. He has played his way into the Lakers rotation, as Alex Caruso and Tyler Ennis have taken a backseat.
The Jazz have one of the rather taller frontcourts in the NBA, headlined by the Stifel Tower, Rody Gobert. The Frenchman is a deadly defender at the rim, not scared of any potential challenge in the paint. At the same time, he crashes the glass for every rebound and is a capable finisher in the pick-and-roll scenario with Rubio. With a little more responsibility, Gobert is also a capable low-post scoring option, playing alongside shooters.
One of those key shooters is Joe Ingles, a lefty that thrives on faulty defenses. While he can handle and dish the ball, Ingles primary threat is as a shooter, constantly relocating and knocking down clutch shots from beyond the arc. The Lakers will need to be on point with their defensive rotations, or else it could be a long night.
Derrick Favors rounds out the Jazz starting lineup, a physical presence on the court. With a consistent starting spot, Utah is really hoping that he can grow into his role, as a potential difference maker for this playoff hopeful team. Veteran Joe Johnson will also be a reliable source off the bench for head coach Quin Snyder, respected as one of the top clutch performers left in the NBA while versatile wing Thabo Sefolosha is a capable wing player in this offense.
The Lakers frontcourt starts and ends with Ingram, the second-year player trying to find himself some consistent production. Ingram faces the key defender of the opposing team with each game that comes, as stifling his offensive presence usually translates to success for the other team.
Lopez, coming off a 6-for-12 shooting performance, has been the anchor for this team, the usual focal point of the offense. Walton has typically attempted to engage his offense by starting off Lopez early, in order to space the floor and create open opportunities for his shooters.
The Lakers will benefit from getting Lopez going early, while Larry Nance Jr. remains the constant burst of energy that the starting lineup needs. His hustle and basketball IQ have translated well into this unit, helping the Lakers secure an all-around approach.
Randle and Kuzma round out the frontcourt rotation for this young team, as the key influencers off the bench. Kuzma has turned into a blossoming first-round pick, potentially turning into the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft. At the same time, Randle is getting comfortable with his role off the bench, as another capable scorer for the second unit.
Three Keys To Victory:
Keep Rotating The Ball: The Lakers offense has built a reputation for getting stagnant at times, leading to many turnovers. In order to keep the offense flowing, Walton’s team has to do a consistent job of creating for one another.
Defensive Rotations Need To Stay Intact: The Jazz can be complicated to double team off of, especially if Gobert gets going early. The Lakers need to make sure that Hood and Ingles are accounted for off of switches, setting up favorable rotations to play off of.
Play For Each Other: Instead of relying on stagnant offensive possessions, it’s about time the Lakers start showing passion on the court for one another. That stellar play at the end of the Washington Wizards game showed off what happens when they play as a unit, succeeding as a team rather than individually.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) Vs. Utah Jazz (2-3)
6:00 P.M. PST, October 28, 2017
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Rodney Hood
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Joe Johnson, Donovan Mitchell, Raul Neto, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh