The Lakers travel to Utah to look for their second win of the early season as they face the Jazz. After an 0-3 start, which triggered outraged and a bit of panic from a large portion of fans, we all took a sigh of relief on Sunday night when the Lakers achieved their first victory in a big win against the Detroit Pistons. The Lakers will continue to be without new guard, Steve Nash, who is out at least one week with a non-displaced fracture in his left leg.
The Lakers will be looking to replicate their performance from Sunday and add more contribution from their bench as well. A key is to prolong the momentum created in the win against Detroit and ride that wave of momentum on the road. Kobe Bryant seems to consistently have big performances in Salt Lake City, as he averaged 33 points and 4.5 rebounds last season at Energy Solutions Arena. The Lakers have an all-time record of 100-58 against the Jazz with a 38-41 road record in Utah.
Frontcourt: Al Jefferson is one of the forgotten about “old-school” centers in the game today. He is consistently solid and cannot be forgotten about by Dwight Howard, especially on the glass. Jefferson’s points per game is down from last season, but it is still early in the season. Jefferson is still averaging a double-double with 12.3 points and 10.0 boards.
Enes Kanter put up good numbers against LA during the preseason, but his contribution has decreased with the return of Paul Millsap to the lineup along with his shooting percentage of 41.7. Sophomore Derrick Favors has shown signs of improvement on the defensive end coming off the bench this year. Favors is averaging 7.5 and 7.3 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting in 22.5 minutes per game.
The Lakers did not see Paul Millsap in the match-ups against the Jazz during the preseason. Last year, Millsap had solid performances against the Lakers, averaging 21.8 points and 9.8 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting in four games. So far this season Millsap is putting up 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Pau Gasol will have to play tighter defense to limit Millsap’s offense.
Backcourt: I think it’s safe to say that the Jazz are thrilled with the performances that newcomer Mo Williams has strung together thus far. He will be a tough match-up defensively for Steve Blake, who will need to continue his strong defensive performance (five steals) from Sunday night in tonight’s game. Williams is averaging 20.8 points and 6.8 assists per game on 46.9 percent shooting from the field.
Marvin Williams is putting up smaller numbers since preseason, but that doesn’t mean he can be ignored. Overall, he is averaging 10.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. I expect Metta World Peace to up his defense on Williams to limit his performance tonight. I expect Kobe Bryant to have another efficient and effective night as he faces Gordon Haywood. On defense, Bryant will aim to force Haywood to the outside where he is less effective. Haywood is having his best year yet, averaging 14.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Randy Foye has been very important to the Jazz bench this year. Darius Morris will have to defend Foye very closely to prevent him from having a big game. Foye is adding 12.8 points and 2.0 assists per game in 24.3 minutes.
Keys to Victory:
Run the Offense Inside-Out: Sunday’s performance by the Lakers was a blueprint model of how they should run their offense, especially until Steve Nash returns to the lineup. Despite Utah having a very solid frontcourt, who are consistent on offense and defense, the Lakers will always have the edge against any opponent’s frontcourt as long as they have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. On Sunday, the Lakers proved this strength with great games from their bigs. I believe throwing it inside will also help the Lakers limit turnovers, which we all know is a must.
Against Detroit, the Lakers pushed the ball inside which resulted in efficient offense. The frontcourt of Howard, Gasol and World Peace combined for 60 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks on 27 for 41 (66 percent) shooting. By playing inside-out, the Lakers are able to draw the defense in and open up outside shots on the wing.
Keep the Energy Up: The energy and passion were lacking in the first three games of the season for the Lakers. This especially affected their defense and the ability to get back on transition defense. On Sunday, the Lakers played with urgency as the pressure to win was critical and the result was apparent. Not only did their high energy and effort lead to better offense by the Laker bigs, but it more importantly led to better defense as well.
The Lakers will need to continue to play with high energy especially on the glass, as Utah is very capable on the boards. In fact, they are 8th in the league currently for rebounds per game with 44.8. Compare that to the Lakers’ 43.8 rebounds per game, which is ranked 11th in the league. Therefore, their timing on defense and boxing out with be crucial for the Lakers, especially for preventing Utah’s fastbreak game.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) vs. Utah Jazz (1-3)
6:00 PM PST, November 7, 2012
Energy Solution Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Jazz Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Marvin Williams
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves: G Randy Foye, C Enes Kanter, F Derrick Favors
Injury Report: G Raja Bell out (not with team), G Earl Watson out (right knee)