A year ago, the Lakers and Jazz were fighting each other for a much coveted playoff spot. What a difference a year can make. Now, both teams find themselves in the cellar of the Western Conference pondering their future. Both teams are focused on the upcoming draft and this game could have drastic draft position implications. The Jazz come in losers of nine of their last 10 games including four straight. However, the Jazz have won two out three games against the Lakers this season. Playing in the second night of a back-to-back, it will be interesting to see how much energy the Lakers have.
Frontcourt: With Marvin Williams hampered by a knee injury, the Jazz have shifted to a bigger lineup featuring their two young big men, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Kanter began the season as the starting center but saw head coach Tyron Corbin bench him in favor of a smaller lineup. However, Kanter has been outstanding since Williams’ injury averaging 17.3 points and 15.3 rebounds over the past three games.
With the departure of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, Favors stepped into a much larger role this season. While he has shown flashes of elite play, Favors sometimes struggles to find his shot and can become lackluster on the defensive side. Favors is still young and his athleticism and work effort make him a double-double threat every game. Even though they are young, Kanter and Favors have been trouble for the Lakers, averaging 23 points and 17 rebounds combined in the past three meetings.
Backcourt: Rookie Trey Burke handles a majority of the point guard duties for the Jazz as his minutes have risen throughout the season. Burke has struggled with his shot all season, but is having an outstanding April. In five games, he is averaging 12 points and nine assists. Burke really thrives in taking care of the ball and making smart decisions, proven by his 3.11 assists to turnover ratio, which ranks among the league’s best.
Because of injuries, Alec Burks has been playing alongside Burke and shares ball handling duties. Burks is by far the better scorer while Trey Burke often acts as floor general getting his teammates involved. Burks is the second leading scorer for the Jazz and often served as a scoring burst off the bench. He is also in the midst of a strong April and his size, along with his scoring ability, may give the Lakers some trouble on the wing.
The unquestioned leader of the Jazz is former Butler star Gordon Hayward. He leads the team with 16.1 points per game while also chipping in five assists and five rebounds. Hayward has absolutely torched the Lakers in their previous three meetings averaging 20 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals. Hayward is also responsible for guarding the other team’s best player. To say the least, this team lives and dies by the third year guard. Without him, the Jazz most likely don’t have nearly as many wins.
Keys To Lakers’ Victory:
Limit Second Chance Points: A day after giving up 16 offensive rebounds that ended up in 10 Memphis points, the Lakers need to focus on boxing out and rebounding. While the Lakers and Jazz are tied at 41 rebounds per game, the Lakers have been out rebounded by a ridiculous -8 margin. The Jazz are by no means a great rebounding team, but with two giants in the paint, expect them to attack the boards. With Jordan Hill playing as an undersized center, the Lakers will be dramatically out matched in the paint. It is important for the Lakers guards to drop in and help the undersized front court win the battle down low.
The Bench: Without the likes of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol, this Lakers team has really struggled to get their offense going. Nick Young and Jordan Farmar provide the best scoring options for the Lakers off the bench as both are having outstanding shooting seasons. Neither team is particularly deep, both only use three reserves on average, so the bench play will be key for a Lakers win. It will be up to Young and Farmar to keep the Lakers offense rolling in what is expected to be a high scoring affair.
Limit Turnovers: Despite Kendall Marshall boasting one of the leagues best assist to turnover ratios, the Lakers have struggled all season with turnovers. The Jazz have several players who are active on the defensive end, including Hayward and Favors. The Jazz often struggle on offense in the half court, so it is imperative that the Lakers limit the amount of easy buckets they give up. If the Lakers want any chance in winning, they need to keep their turnovers to below 11.
Los Angeles Lakers (25-55) vs. Utah Jazz (24-56)
6:00 PM PST, April 14, 2014
Energy Solutions Arena
TV: TWC Sportsnet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 (English), 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Jazz Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Trey Burke
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Gordan Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
Key Reserves: F: Richard Jefferson, SG: Jeremy Evans
Lakers Projected Staring Lineup
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Jordan Hill
Nick Young’s Incredible 360 Baseline Reverse Lay-Up!