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Game Preview: Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Lakers

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The Lonzo Ball hype train makes a stop in SLC

NBA: Preseason-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (2-3) will look to end a two-game losing streak at home against the Los Angeles Lakers (2-3). The Jazz are currently undefeated at home with wins over likely playoff teams in the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Los Angeles is on the tail end of a back-to-back, having just dropped a home game to the Toronto Raptors. The Lakers blew a 17-point first half lead and ultimately lost by nine due, in part, to a Kyle Lowry triple-double.

The Jazz are about as healthy as they are going to be this year and the Lakers are healthy too, so there won’t be any excuses on either side. It’s just pure basketball for today.

Game Info

When: 7:00 p.m. MT

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

Radio: 1280 or 97.5 The Zone

Television:

Streaming: You probably already know.

Injuries

Utah Jazz

Dante Exum — OUT (Shoulder)

Los Angeles Lakers

None

What to Watch For

That second overall pick everyone’s talking about

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lonzo Ball has gotten quite a bit of hype, but not without reason. Yes, he is shooting a stunning 31.3 percent from the field, but that’s not necessarily where Ball’s biggest influence is felt.

I’ve talked to anybody who will listen about how Ricky Rubio uses positioning and manipulation of defenses to get his teammates open. He’s a risk for the defense to find an open man even if he can’t shoot worth a d*rn. In some ways Ball is similar in that he can find open guys most others can’t (and he can’t shoot).

In watching Ball play and reviewing highlights, however, he doesn’t impose his will on the defense as much as Rubio or any of the great passing point guards. Instead he takes what the defense gives him and makes them pay for the little mistakes they make.

For example, look at this play

Ball takes a simple dribble hand-off, keeps his eyes up and makes the defender pay for less-than-aggressive defense. And what makes that play so hard to guard is that no one ever throws that entry pass except to the DeAndre Jordans of the world. But the Jazz have to expect everything.

Shutting down Lonzo Ball doesn’t mean making him shoot 1-10 from the field. It means shutting down his opportunities to make those sneaky passes, which is a team effort.

Utah’s Home Cooking

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Jazz are averaging 101.0 points per game at home compared to 89.7 on the road. It’s a small sample size, but the Jazz have played much better at home offensively so far this year. They’ve also played absolute lock-down defense, giving up just 91.5 points per game.

The higher scoring has come mainly on better shooting. At home, the Jazz are shooting 50 percent from the field. On the road, that percentage has dropped to 44.1. That mark isn’t terrible, but the Jazz need good shooting almost every night to beat teams.

Points in the Paint

NBA: Preseason-Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers lead the league in points scored in the paint per game at 56.8 per game. The Jazz are sixth in points allowed in the paint per game at 39.6. Need I say more?

Utah’s combo of Rudy Gobert and Ekpe Udoh alternating guard duty at the rim, Los Angeles will have a much harder time getting easy buckets. And it will be key to stopping their offense.

On the flip side, the Lakers are last in points allowed in the paint. The should be helpful as the Jazz 24th in points scored in the paint and have struggled shooting from the outside (31.3 percent from three).

Most Likely Jazz Killer

Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

No one on the current Lakers squad screams “Jazz killer” now that Lou Williams isn’t on the roster. But Julius Randle has the chance to make the Jazz pay off the bench. Randle has made 16 of 21 shots over his last three games coming off the pine averaging 13.3 points per game.

Randle put up 25 points against the Jazz Dec. 27, 2016 which is tied for the second most he’s had in a game. If the Jazz don’t keep an eye on him, he’ll do it again. And considering how much points matter to a team that is dead last in points scored, they can’t afford to give up extra bench points.