The Los Angeles Lakers (12-22) beat the Los Angeles Clippers (22-11) this weekend. Now, if you haven’t paid that much attention to the Western Conference standings and only remember the start of the year, you might be inclined to think it is a show of strength of Luke Walton’s team and watch out Utah Jazz (18-13)!
However, after a good start, an injury riddled Laker team went on a losing binge, won against Philly, and then went streaking in the wrong direction yet again before beating the Clippers this weekend.
Not to say it wasn’t impressive, because the game did show the strength of a healthy Lakers team: 7 people scored in double figures to tally 111 points. Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young led the team with 19 each, with D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams following with 14, and Julius Randle and Luol Deng with 13. Rookie scorer Brandon Ingram finished with 10 points. Clippers, though, were without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. But who cares?
Nick Young on Lakers' win vs Clippers w/out CP & Griffin: "A win is a win. Nobody cares when we were hurt and injured. So why should we?"— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 26, 2016
Especially Mozgov will find it hard to repeat that performance, because he will go up against the only healthy Jazz player to ever play the game, Rudy Gobert. That might stifle his 8-for-11 output of Sunday.
The Jazz still have their streak to break, losing three in a row without George Hill, without Alec Burks, without Dante Exum, and with the limited availability of Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood.
Hood is back though, feeling mighty real now he’s overcome our biggest everyday foe, the flu. This might also help Gordon Hayward out as he won’t be the only one on the floor that is an actual scoring threat (and doesn’t con Shelvin Mack into thinking he is one).
Hill and Burks are making progress, but by the time of writing the status of them and Exum is still unknown (though, based on how the year’s going so far, I would feel pretty confident in hazarding a guess…). Hopefully the few days rest did all of them some good.
WIthout Dante Exum, George Hill and Alec Burks tonight the Jazz only have 2 5 man lineups that have played over 30 minutes together— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) December 27, 2016
Jazz have been good boys and have paid their dues throughout the start of this season, so hopefully Santa left a nice little win to unwrap against a rejuvenated Lakers squad.
Shelvin Mack vs. D’Angelo Russell
Rodney Hood vs. Nick Young
Gordon Hayward vs. Luol Deng
Boris Diaw vs. Julius Randle
Rudy Gobert vs. Timofey Mozgov
Marquee Match-Up: Rodney Hood vs. Nick Young
How about two streaky shooters battling it out? Both can make it look easy, but both can also go cold, and with Hood just coming off of one (…), who knows what might happen! If one of these two gets it going, and the other not so much, that could swing the ball game.
X-Factor: Get Them Easy Hoops
The thing about the Lakers is that you can get some easy baskets against them if you play the game right. Their starting point guard and power forward are both young, and with Ingram being a rookie there is plenty of inexperience to exploit.
It’s not only the inexperience, but some of their other key players can make it look easy on offense, but are also prone to defensive lapses. Play it right, have some patience, and the Jazz might be able to get some high percentage shots and open lay-ups.
It’s away from home, and the point guard position is still a problem, but I’d say the Jazz should have enough in them to steal one in L.A. before driving home after Christmas.
Jazz 101 - Lakers 92