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Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Game Preview: Could this be a trap game?

Los Angeles Lakers (12-28) @ Utah Jazz (13-26)
EnergySolutions Arena • Salt Lake City, UT
7:00 p.m. (MT) • TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: 1280 AM / 97.5 FM

Mike Powell/Getty Images

Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Los Angeles Lakers. For years of my life these two franchises were amongst the tops of the Western Conference. I've seen the good times and bad times of both, and right now these two teams sit at 13th and 14th in the lands they used to rule over. The Jazz are hurting for a win, having dropped the last three in a row. In fact, Utah is 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Lakers are even worse, 3-7. LA lost last night to the Cleveland Cavaliers and have dropped their last three games as well.

The Lakers played last night, flew in to play the Jazz on the second night of a back to back, and the Jazz have been off since Tuesday. While the Jazz are only 6-12 at home, the Lakers are 6-13 on the road. This should be an evenly matched team, but injuries will no doubt play a part in how things shake out. LA will be without Steve Nash (out for the season), Julius Randle (injured after 14 minutes into his rookie season), and now Kobe Bryant (who didn't even fly out with the team last night, after playing one of his best games of the season). LA will be without three rotation players -- while the Jazz inch towards healthiness. Only Alec Burks is out for this game (out for the rest of the season), as Rodney Hood is questionable, and Trevor Booker is probable. (For the record Jordan Hill and Ronnie Price are probable as well for LA).

I want to take the Lakers lightly, but Utah has dropped games to injured teams before -- and a little too casually for my liking. (I see you, Indiana Pacers). As a guy who fell in love with the NBA while living in LA in 1984 I will always respect the Lakers, even if I don't like them. The Jazz should feel the same way, as they are 62-103 in the all-time head to head match-up. Utah is barely positive with a 43-39 record in Utah.

LA under Byron Scott plays at the 9th fastest pace (no huge surprise here, they are big enough to be decent on the defensive glass), have the 18th best offense (by ORTG), but the 29th "best" defense (by DRTG). On average they score 100.8 ppg, but give up 106.8. Yikes. They don't cause a lot of turn overs, and really send teams to the line. They are like a bad version of the team we used to be. Offensively they take care of the ball, hit the glass, and also get to the line. A huge part of that is Kobe Bryant. Bereft of his services tonight it will be interesting to see if the refs still favor them unfairly.

Synergy tells us that they are an "average" offensive team, that is "below average" on spot ups, "average" most of the place, but a "good" pick and roll team that is "very good" in transition. Defensively, well, it is not good. They are "poor" or "below average" on everything except defending post ups, where they are surprisingly "very good". Utah does not have much to crow about because they are mostly "poor" on defense everywhere too, and offensively "below average" on post ups.

Quin Snyder's Jazz aren't world beaters by any measure. Utah plays at the 28th "fastest" pace, has the 27th "best" defense, and the 15th best offense. Utah scores 96.2 ppg, while giving up 99.5.


Lakers Roster:

2014 2015 Game 040 LAL at UTA - Lakers Players

Maybe Kobe is actually okay, his 23/6/6 on a bad team is really indicative of how tremendous of a competitor he is. #KobeFace

It's going to be interesting to see what a starting lineup of Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Ed Davis, and Jordan Hill can actually do. If Utah doesn't demolish this team I will be sad. They have a bunch of bigs who aren't afraid of contact, so if Scott wants to, he can match size against size. LA is a solid rebounding club, so it's not like they are just going to roll over and die. After all, winning a game on the road without Kobe is just what LA would want to do.

Jazz Roster:

2014 2015 Game 040 LAL at UTA - Jazz Players

Wow, we're almost fully healthy. I can't get over that.


Well, no Steve Nash (LAL), Kobe Bryant (LAL), Alec Burks (UTA), Julius Randle (LAL). Rodney Hood (UTA) is questionable; while Trevor Booker (UTA), Jordan Hill (LAL), and Ronnie Price (LAL) are probable.

Marquee Match-Up:

I am really interested to see how Trey Burke and Dante Exum go up against Ronnie Price and Jeremy Lin. This is effectively two Summer League PGs for both sides. Price is a legit vet who is scrappy and never gives up on defense. Lin has hurt the Jazz before and can get hot. This will be a good test for our younger guys, the 22 and 19 year old Burke and Exum.

Fearful Prediction:

The Lakers bigs step up and make this game much less of a given than the injuries would indicate. In particular Ed Davis has a solid game on the glass and finishes with a double double and 2 blocks.

Fearless Prediction:

The Jazz break their losing streak with a much needed win against a hated foe.