After winning three straight games, the Los Angeles Lakers are now on a three-game losing streak and will look to end it tonight when the Utah Jazz come to Staples Center.
The Lakers have shown signs of improvement during their last two losses to the Sacramento Kings and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers erased a 27-point deficit against the Kings before ultimately losing and they stayed competitive with a talented Thunder team. The Jazz are a talented young team with hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
Frontcourt: Gordon Hayward is the leading scorer for the Jazz who is averaging a team-high 19 points per game. Hayward remains a dynamic scorer after he put on about seven pounds of muscle over the offseason and he can score inside as well as from the perimeter. The fifth-year guard out of Butler is shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc and is always a threat to score when he is on the floor.
With Derrick Favors missing the last eight games due to a back injury, Jeff Withey gets the nod as the starting center for the Jazz. Withey has filled the void at center for the Jazz, but has not been nearly as productive as Favors has been this season. Withey is averaging nine points and seven rebounds in his last 10 games and will not likely pose a problem for the Lakers down low.
Backcourt: Utah’s backcourt is depleted with injuries this season; Alec Burks is out indefinitely after surgery on his broken left fibula and Dante Exum is out for the season with a torn ACL. The once deep backcourt of the Jazz is now down to Raul Neto and Rodney Hood. Neto impressed the front office of the Jazz and earned a roster spot with his hounding defense. He is not a productive scorer, but he hustles and plays hard.
Trey Burke splits the minutes at point guard with Neto even though he is averaging more points per game this season. Both Burke and Neto are decent shooters from beyond the arc, but they are not threats to dice up the Lakers questionable defense. If the Lakers play as well as they have in their last five quarters, they will shut down the young Utah guards.
Keys to Victory:
Quick Start: The Lakers match up with the Jazz very well even though the Jazz have a better winning percentage. This is a winnable game for the Lakers, especially if they play as well as they did in the fourth quarter against the Kings and the game against the Thunder. If the Lakers jump out the gates with a quick start and get an early lead on the Jazz, they will not look back and win their ninth game of the season.
Offensive Efficiency: The Lakers score more points per game this season than the Jazz and have scored the ball well in their last two games. In the game against the Thunder, the Lakers shot 48 percent from the field, but they just fell short to one of the best teams in the league. The Lakers are playing with confidence and their offense is running smoothly, so if they keep it up they will be able to beat the Jazz tonight.
Defense: The Jazz are not a high-scoring team and they win most of their games on the defensive end of the floor. The Lakers will have to match Utah’s defensive intensity and try to create points off of turnovers. The Lakers are at their best when they are wrecking havoc on the defensive end and getting easy scoring opportunities in transition.
Los Angeles Lakers (8-30) vs. Utah Jazz (16-20)
6:30 P.M. PST, January 10, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 (Spanish)
Jazz Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Raul Neto
SG: Rodney Hood
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Trey Lyles
C: Jeff Withey
Key Reserves: PG: Trey Burke, PF: Trevor Booker, C: Rudy Gobert
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Anthony Brown
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PF: Julius Randle, SF: Nick Young, PG: Marcelo Huertas