NBA Preseason 2012-2013, Game 4:
Utah Jazz (2-1) @ Los Angeles Lakers (0-3)
The Jazz have had two "free" nights in Los Angeles since their Saturday night win back on the 13th. I am sure the team got a chance to relax, enjoy "that good weather", but also hopefully they got a chance to have a few practices as well. I think that while this team got a win against the Lakers third and fourth string players, that there a number of problems still. And the preseason, and all the preseason practices, are supposed to help identify and then implement strategies for improvement.
The Lakers are looking to do just the same thing. So I expect tonight's game to be slightly different.
The largest difference in the game on the Jazz side will be the return of Paul Millsap to the team (he had missed and been excused from the last two games due to a family funeral for his grandmother), and the loss of Mo Williams (strain, nothing serious). Millsap needs to keep improving, and so far this preseason he's leading the team in PPG and among the tops in a number of other categories as well. For the Lakers, they'll still be without Dwight Howard, Jordan Hill, and now Earl Clark. Their front court for tonight's game will be deceptively under-talented.
That's really the bad news. The silver lining for both teams is that for Tyrone Corbin it gives him a chance to try to mix and match his backcourts and see if there's anything good that sticks. Chris Quinn, Randy Foye, and Jamaal Tinsley will handle most of the PG duties. For Mike Brown he kind of 'knows" what he's going to get from Dwight Howard (having coached against him in the Eastern Conference playoffs before), so this gives him a chance to see if anything sticks with all the bigmen they've brought into camp: Robert Sacre, Ronnie Aguilar, and Greg Somogyi are all taller than everyone on the Jazz. Something's gotta give.
The Jazz and Lakers played once already this preseason, with the Jazz coming back from a first half where the Lakers starters went to the FT line 22 times in 24 minutes to win 99-86. In that game Pau Gasol played 28 minutes, Metta World Peace played 25, Kobe Bryant played 25, Steve Nash played 24, and Antawn Jamison played in 22 minutes. On the Jazz' side of things, Marvin Williams played 26 minutes, Al Jefferson played 24, Derrick Favors 23, Mo Williams 22, Enes Kanter 20, and Gordon Hayward 19. So it's not like there was a huge advantage there. In fact the Lakers core players played more -- and the Jazz took the lead for good with guys like Gasol and Kobe on the floor.
So, if anything, the last game was still only a preseason game -- but it was a moral victory that the Jazz guys got it done against the Lakers core guys. LA was without Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill. Utah was without Paul Millsap and Earl Watson. The end result was Enes Kanter destroying the weak barely-NBA quality bigs the Lakers were forced to use.
Tonight could be the opposite though, as our point guard play without Mo Williams will be something to worry about, and the Lakers start Steve Nash there.
The Lakers are still suspect inside, and our guard play has been nothing to stick out our chests about either. This will be preseason game 4 for both teams, and I'll expect the coaches to both play their better players increasingly more minutes down the stretch. If the game is close in the fourth, I'd be surprised not to see guys like Gasol, Ron Artest, and Jamison out there.
For the Jazz this game is going to be a test. And I think Corbin wants his guys to be leaving LA with another win or two. Going 2-1 on this road trip is better than going 1-2. And while the Clippers will be waiting, the Lakers are injured and here tonight. Ty wants this win.
As a team, so far this preseason the Jazz have been holding teams to just 22.7 3pt%. Last game the Lakers busted out for 28.6 3pt%, which was still lower than the Jazz got (Jazz had 36.4 3pt% in that game, and for the preseason are averaging 37.5 3pt%). Not having Mo is going to hurt us on both three point offense and defense. The Lakers are expected to win the west this year. Without Dwight Howard available, and this being the preseason and all -- our now fully healthy core of 5 bigs (I see you: Jeremy Evans!) should win on the inside.
Of course, this is still a game against the Lakers. And as long as Kobe is out there, I don't expect things to come easy.
Word from the Badguys:
Sticking with the Amar-home-court-advantage . . . I called my older brother at work. I asked him if his Lakers were going to beat my Jazz tonight and he replied: "No . . . we're going for perfection right now." The opposite-land undefeated preseason Lakers are hurting for a win in the real world though, but I get his point. He also felt as though with all of the regulars being in and out of the lineup that it affords the Lakers a lot of experimentation time to find out what they have with these new wings and bigs. He also said that it was like "college" for the Lakers right now. Funny stuff. Funny guy. Ultimately he felt like any singular game right now doesn't mean much for the LAL guys because their payoff is in the playoffs. If they lose tonight it will be within the greater concept of the season where each individual part of the team needs to be tried out and understood.
I think the Jazz should take that point of view as well, as we need to figure out all of our parts as so many parts are in contract years.
For the Lakers I think their main X-Factor will always be "how many minutes will Kobe play?", because he's a handful on offense. Alec Burks did a good job on him though, but I'd expect Kobe to take that personally and try to burn him if they do see each other tonight. For the Jazz it will be Paul Millsap. He hasn't played since October 8th, which was over a week ago.
Moving beyond players and looking at trends, if the Jazz can continue to dominate the glass (averaging 48.3 rebounds per game) while causing turn overs (other team averaging 17.3 turn overs a game), the team can continue to play the pace they want -- even without Mo Williams pushing the ball up the floor. The secondary runners like Foye, Hayward, and Burks need to be the primary pace setters tonight.
As for LA, if they can get out of their shooting slump they could end game 4 with their first win.
As an aside:
Tonight's game will be played in the Honda Center, in Anaheim. I think this game means more to the Los Angeles TV deal and who can't watch their team on TV than anything between these two NBA teams in the long run. The specifics of the TV deal make my head explode. The most interesting factor is that the Lakers are the biggest draw, and want to continue NOT having a team like the Sacramento Kings moves to Anaheim. The Lakers get a TON of money from Lakers fans in not-LA. Ironically, this has left Lakers fans in LA without a way to watch their team on TV, while the Lakers get richer.
The Jazz lose. Why? Because we'll see tonight how huge Mo is for us, by not having him out there. I have pretty low confidence in Randy right now. He's just not being used correctly (like a number of other players on our team), and while it's good to get him out there -- his time is less productive than it should be. And that can frustrate a player in a contract year. The Lakers also kinda want to win games. These games don't mean anything, but people with psychopathic tendencies still hate to lose ever, and Kobe is such a self-motivated, hyper competitive individual that'll want to will his team to victory, in the 20 minutes he'll play tonight.