NBA Regular Season: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz -- Game Preview

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 5:

Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) @ Utah Jazz (1-3)

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The Basics:

The Jazz return home after a disappointing road trip, what else do you call it when you lose to the New Orleans Hornets without their best players? The Lakers have broken the seal on their season with a beatdown of the Detroit Pistons. They look to capitalize on that, and build some momentum by winning tonight in Utah. The Jazz are 41-38 vs. the Lakers in Utah. We don't dominate them . . . but we do make them work for it.

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History:

Last season our two teams met four times. LA won the first two, and we won the last two -- both stealing one on the road and dropping one at home. The first game (in LA) was a blowout. LA was on their 3rd game in 3 nights deal -- and we failed to run on them. We lost by nearly 30 points. Ouch. Each preceding game was more close.

That last game is the key game, because we played a healthy LA team in their gym, and won the game with team play.

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The Game:

The Jazz host the Lakers only once this season, and this is it. We are one day removed from a killer road trip. There is no "tiredness" advantage right now as the Lakers didn't play last night either. And they don't play the night after so they're not looking past us. LA will be without the services of Steve Nash tonight; but it's not like we have the talent on paper to "hang" with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol. Sure, they are big, and athletic, and in their peak -- but they haven't won the title yet. They still have to earn it. And part of that means winning the games they are supposed to.

On paper they look better than us. The Western Conference standings show that we both have the same number of wins, and same number of losses. Al Jefferson is curiously effective against Dwight Howard. He's have a monster season, but I don't think Dwight kills us one on one. He can. But he doesn't. I guess because we usually swarm him. Tonight we can't do that. I'd rather go with Dwight trying to beat us one on one than have our defenders running all over the court rotating (poorly) while leaving openings for Gasol or Kobe to beat us.

Gasol and Dwight are both really big. They will strain our PF only bigs in ways no other team can. It's going to be fun.

Kobe is Kobe, except this season he's an even more hyper efficient Kobe. It's scary. There are two weaknesses though, their bench and their point guard defense. Running PnR to get our guard into the paint is dumb against their length. Thankfully we have a one on one guard who can get his own shot from outside the paint. He's quick, but no Collison. Still -- we're going to need a big night from Mo Williams tonight. We've NEEDED one every night and so far he has delivered.

Our bench vs. their bench? I think that's where this game is won or lost. Or more accurately, that's where this game is either brought back to a more manageable margin, or becomes a blow out.

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Word from the Badguys:

Drew (@BallReasons) at Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersBlog_SSR) and I got up to no good and we did a Q and A. You can read my part here. His part will be up shortly as part of our popular Jazz Jam Sessions. It's a good one, so hang on!

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X-Factors:

You know what? Last season we won a game based on the strong play of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. It was a feel good story, but I sure hope it was not fool's gold. Hayward usually plays well against LA. But Yeah, you know what? I'm calling out these young guys. Gordon is having an okay season right now, he's more aggressive, assertive, and showing that he belongs on the court. But he's not perfect. And so far he's the most consistent performer. Favors seems to float through sequences. Kanter has only managed to average 3.5 rebounds a game. And Burks, well, yeah. No Comment.

Part of the reason why we were all so high on these guys was hope. But a more logical reason why we were high on them was because they all showed that they belonged in this league -- and showed the world by beating a healthy Lakers team in their gym with all eyes on them.

Looking on paper our bench is better. Right now our bench has just bee Randy Foye. We need the rest of these lotto picks to pick up the slack. There have been a lot of things to grumble about with our team so far -- but it would be biased of me to overlook their collective struggles as well. Kanter, Favors, Burks, (and Gordo) are the X-factor tonight. If they play like we know they can -- we can take advantage of the Lakers shallow depth.

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As an aside:

I sure hope this isn't the game where Antawn Jamison breaks out of his shooting slump in -- but his talents seem to be made to specifically destroy us. (Like Lamar Odom used to do) Jamison is only shooting 41.7 fg% right now, and 16.7% from deep. Randy Foye had more points than him in one game this season than Antawn has recorded all season long in four.

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Fearless Prediction:

Jazz win. Why? Not just that I'm a homer, but we're at home. And one thing I know about the great State of Utah is that even if the rest of the world is against you, you guys are going to defend your homeland/homecourt. And we've seen that in how resilient the Jazz have been at home over the years.

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