Game 45: Utah Jazz (22-22, Road: 5-16) @ Los Angeles Lakers (28-16, Home: 19-2)
Tonight the Utah Jazz will attempt to go into LA, face the Lakers, and defeat them. All without Al Jefferson, Raja Bell, and Earl Watson.The Lakers dumped Derek Fisher (among others) and have reloaded with Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill. The Lakers are an impressive 19-2 at Staples this year. Even if we were a team winning half of our road games (and we're not), this would be a tough mach-up. What makes it even worse is that the Jazz usually do not perform very well there. Yes, Gordon Hayward came alive last season and we escaped with a win there. I loved that. we may need him to do the same tonight.
What's going on with the Lakers?
LA is still Kobe Bryant's team. And everyone knows it. He's playing 38.8 mpg this year. He's shooting the ball 23.8 times a game. And he is in his 16th year in the league. It is still the Kobe system. He's scoring 29.0 ppg this year, which is the most he's scored per game since he was 28. He does other things too. He gets to the line 8.1 times a game, gets 5.7 rpg, dishes out 4.8 apg, and rips away 1.3 spg. He's still a very good player. And he always seems to want to score on the Jazz. (There are only a handful of teams he has a higher career PPG against than the Jazz)
The Lakers are Kobe's team, but they are more than just Kobe. There's Pau Gasol to contend with, who is still 7 feet tall, averaging 16 and 10, and most importantly, didn't get traded. Gasol is a problem, but he figures to be less of a problem now than *ALL-STAR* Andrew Bynum. Bynum is a big boy. He was so big it made no sense to throw Jarron Collins and Paul Millsap at him in the playoffs. (Things looked a little better when Jerry Sloan finally allowed Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko to get some playing time in the playoffs - but they were both under-ready.)
Bynum is supposed to be the "next big thing". Or at least that's what all the hype tells us. The numbers seem to agree with the hype in this case as he's currently averaging 17.6 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.0 bpg, while shooting 57.0 fg%. He's doing a lot of good things on the court, which somehow make up for all the bone-head off the court things he gets caught doing.
The Lakers are a very well balanced team, they don't play at a very quick pace -- but they shut other teams down. Their defense is #7 in opponents ppg, and ranked #9 in defensive rating. Offensively they are middle of the road, but over all they are on the positive side of the ledger. Last I checked they were still the #3 team in the Western Conference. And a big part of that is because of their floor balance. They're somehow making things work despite being coached by Mike Brown.
The Lakers have won 5 games in a row, and have been nearly unstoppable at home.The combined margin of defeat of their two home losses is -3 points. In a crazy upside down season, they are still the Lakers. We're still an injured Jazz team playing against them. And they are at home. I think we've all kind of seen this movie before.
After the Jump -- What's going on with the Jazz
What's going on with the Jazz?
Holy Moley, did you see last night's game? It's always fun when the Jazz win, and an over-time victory is even better. And the Jazz over-came being without our best player this season in Al Jefferson, without our best shooter Raja Bell, and best floor general in Earl Watson. And we barely beat a bad lotto team who traded for injured guys, who are tanking right now. Ha. So many ways to spin last night, but the most positive way would be to keep talking about how our younger guys are playing.
The first thing is: they are playing.
Beyond that, on a .500 team, we could nit-pick things to death. And perhaps we already have on twitter. The Jazz are playing a more fun style of ball with the younger guys in there. I don't think fans would leave in droves if the Jazz produced this product and promoted it more. Burks slashing to the basket, Kanter getting boards, Hayward going coast to coast, and Favors finishing games like a stud. It's easy to win games when your best players play. Especially after they've "earned" their minutes.
They'll be up for a challenge tonight, but I expect our team to try hard. They're too young to know they're supposed to lose these types of games. That's how they sole one from LA in LA last season as well. Maybe history can repeat itself?