This evening in the City of Angels, the Utah Jazz (6-3) are taking on the Los Angeles Lakers (2-5). As currently constructed, this Lakers team stands as a basketball enigma: after starting their first five games winless (and frankly looking nothing like a competitive team), they’ve turned things around with two solid wins against the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans. That’s not to say that the Lakers are a great team, but with Russell Westbrook now coming off the bench, the LA has seemingly found some pizzazz that they lacked at the season’s open.
For the Utah Jazz, tonight marks the second stop of their grueling November schedule. As it currently stands, their two matchups with the Lakers this month are the only games where they’ll face a sub .500 team. Through a schedule like this, we can finally see if Utah will boomerang back to their original expectations, or if they continue their awe-inspiring run.
When: 8:30 PM MT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 97.5/1280 The Zone
Los Angeles Lakers:
PROBABLE- Lebron James (foot)
QUESTIONABLE- Anthony Davis (back)
OUT- Thomas Bryant (thumb)
OUT- Dennis Schroder (thumb)
QUESTIONABLE- Simone Fontecchio (conditioning)
OUT- Leandro Bolmaro (health & safety protocols)
What to watch for:
In their last loss against the Dallas Mavericks, Utah’s inability to defend lob threats became painfully apparent. Up to that point, the Jazz had actually done a surprisingly good job defending the paint without a designated shot-blocker. Through staying active on the perimeter and timing their rotations well, the Jazz have disrupted passing lanes to the paint and kept opposing bigs from getting easy baskets.
But once Luka Doncic was able to breakdown their defense, they had no answer for lobs to Dwight Powell. Entering this season, this was Utah’s achilles heel. Regardless of how well you play team defense, there sometimes isn’t an answer to size and athleticism. Should Anthony Davis suit up tonight, I’m interested to see how Utah will cover James-Davis pick and rolls.
Against the Mavericks, the Jazz clearly lost control of the game during the bench minutes. For the most part, Utah’s depth has stood as a large factor in why they’ve won games: players 6-12 on their bench are all firmly NBA-level players with strong positional size and a definable skill. However, when Mike Conley was on the bench and Dallas transitioned to a zone defense, Utah’s offense came to halt. This, again, was a large question before the season started: who can control Utah’s offense when Conley is on the bench? At the moment, I’m not entirely sure that either Collin Sexton or Talen Horton-Tucker have that ability. Jordan Clarkson, while having shown some impressive passing capabilities thus far, still isn’t much of a game manager. Obviously, developing this skill comes with time, but until a player like Sexton potentially gets to that point, this could be a cause for concern for the foreseeable future.
The Lakers come in as -2 favorites for the night with an over/under of 226.5.