The Los Angeles Lakers are in Salt Lake City to take on Donavan Mitchell and one of the NBA’s best defenses as they play the Utah Jazz.
The game should be a defensive battle, as both teams are in the top five in defensive rating over their last 10 games. However, the Lakers are in the bottom five in offensive rating in that same span.
This marks LeBron James’ ninth straight missed game, which is the longest absence in his entire career. The Lakers are 3-5 without him thus far, having notched back-to-back wins.
Without James, they must see continued good play from Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Ingram and Ball are coming off of two great games following criticism from head coach Luke Walton, while Kuzma is coming off of a Detroit Pistons victory in which he scored a career-high 41 points in just three quarters.
On defense, the Lakers must focus on the duo of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell is averaging 20.7 points per game in his second NBA season, while Gobert currently leads the NBA in field goal percentage.
The Jazz will be very shorthanded against the Lakers, though. Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Tony Bradley, Raul Neto and Grayson Allen are either out or expected to miss Friday’s contest.
As of last game, the Jazz are only running an eight-man rotation, which means the Lakers will have to use their depth to their advantage. Luckily, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been playing excellent basketball as of late. Caldwell-Pope is averaging 16.2 points per game in his last six contests.
The Jazz have been one of the league’s best teams defensively this season. But recently, they have found their stride on offense, too. Even with injuries, the Lakers will need to put on a stellar defensive game if they want to win.
And while it may be a little too early to call this a must-win, the Lakers currently sit at eighth in the conference, just two games ahead of the ninth-place Jazz.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-19) vs. Utah Jazz (21-21)
7:00 P.M. PT, Jan. 11, 2019
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Ivica Zubac
Projected Jazz Starting Lineup:
PG: Donavan Mitchell
SG: Kyle Korver
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale
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