The Los Angeles Lakers concluded their four-game home stand with a 109-102 loss last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers as Kobe Bryant poured in 19 points, 17 assists and 6 rebounds. The team now travels to Salt Lake City without Bryant to take on the Utah Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back. Both teams are seeking an end to their respective three-game losing streaks.
Frontcourt: Leading the way for this young Jazz team is rising star Gordon Hayward. The fifth-year man out of Butler is averaging 18.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and four assists per game so far this season. Offensively, Hayward is an all-around threat, capable of driving to the basket and finishing, hitting perimeter jumpers or finding an open teammate. He’s made strides every season in his young career, and this year has been no exception.
Derrick Favors is another excellent young piece to the Utah roster at just 23 years of age, despite being in his fifth NBA season. Much like Hayward, Favors continues to improve each and every year. The big man is having his most efficient scoring season thus far, averaging 16.2 points on 55.5 percent shooting while snagging 8.6 rebounds a night. The Laker bigs will need to keep a body on him at all times, warding him off when he tries to establish low-post position, as well as on the glass.
Quietly having a solid fourth season is the big man in the middle, Enes Kanter. The 22-year-old is also having his best scoring season — although it hasn’t been his most efficient to date. Kanter has great size and strength at 6’11” and approximately 260 pounds, plus he can step out and knock down midrange jumpers. Occasionally, he’ll even stray beyond the three-point line, even though he only averages one attempt per game.
Backcourt: Joe Ingles — a 27-year-old rookie out of Australia — has been thrust into the starting lineup recently due to a season-ending shoulder injury to Alec Burks. Ingles certainly isn’t a stat sheet stuffer, but he’s a guy that plays hard every night and stays within the flow of the offense. Obviously, he doesn’t have the basketball IQ of a typical rookie, given his additional experience overseas.
Trey Burke has performed at virtually the same level this year as he did last season, which was his rookie campaign. His 12.7 points and 5.1 assists are nearly identical to last season’s numbers, while his efficiency has continued to be a problem. Burke is streaky, so there are times he won’t do much, then there’s other times where he can do some damage, especially from deep if he develops a rhythm early on. The Lakers can’t afford to lose sight of him on that end of the floor.
Keys to Victory:
Energy and Effort: It’s the second game for the Lakers in as many nights, while the Jazz will be coming off two days of rest. Utah has all the reason to be the fresher group when the two teams tip-off, but the Lakers have to dig deep and match the intensity of the Jazz in a hostile environment if they hope to put an end to their current losing streak.
More Swag: Nick Young has really struggled as of late, which was clearly exhibited in last night’s 4-for-13 shooting performance. With Bryant not making the trip, the Laker offense will need Young’s scoring spark off the bench. In wins, he shoots five percent higher, so if he struggles to find his shot early, he needs to attack the basket in hopes of getting some looks closer to the rim or possibly some free throws to get him going.
Push Tempo: Utah plays at the third-slowest pace in the league while the Lakers play at the eighth-fastest. Los Angeles should look to get out and run in order to create some higher quality scoring opportunities against a poor Jazz defensive team. Forcing missed shots and turnovers could trigger plenty of transition play for the purple and gold, so it starts on the defensive end.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-28) at Utah Jazz (13-26)
6:00 PM PST, January 16, 2015
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Jazz Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Joe Ingles
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
Key Reserves: PG: Dante Exum, SG: Elijah Millsap, C: Rudy Gobert
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
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