The Utah Jazz (18-13) hopped on a plane after Christmas and will visit the Los Angeles Lakers (12-22) tonight. LA is 7-7 at home and healthy. The Jazz are 8-6 as the visitors, but perpetually playing without starters. It’s going to be a tougher game than the record would suggest.
One. Can the Jazz bounce back?
The number one thing I think all Jazz fans may be wondering about tonight's game is can the Jazz bounce back? I think this is the first year that I can remember that I am actually glad that the Jazz didn't have a Christmas day game because after limping to 3 straight ugly losses last week, I am hoping that they used the Christmas break to regroup mentally and that they are ready to break out of their funk so to speak. I know that two of those losses could be considered "acceptable" because they were playing against really good teams 2 out of the 3 times,but I still want to see if they come out and look flat or if they look really good. Which leads me to item #2.......
Two. Will they maintain intensity?
After the refreshing and eye opening rant by head coach Quin Snyder at shoot-around on Friday morning I find myself feeling a little bit better about the prospects of this team, the sky is not falling as they say. But the one thing all Jazz fans should be looking for tonight is to see if team is going to be focused and maintain intensity. I don't want to see this team get down and give up if they run into a tough stretch or get complacent if they get up by a big amount. I want to be clear, I don't think that one bad week means that is who this team is, but I think it's important that the Jazz come out with fire from the very opening tip-off and don't let their foot off the gas.
Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints with the defensive identity of this team......it is awesome when the Jazz clamp down on defense and hold an opponent to like 80 points. The Jazz do have to be careful against a team like the Lakers though. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz reassert their defensive dominance tonight. The Lakers are a very talented, young offensive team and the Jazz will have to put their stamp on this game early if they want to make it easier on themselves. I think with a guy like Rudy Gobert to rally the troops, they shouldn't have any problem coming out and looking to take away everything that the Lakers want to do.
Sorry for being captain obvious, but you cannot turn the ball over an average of 17 times over the last 3 games and expect to win most nights. Is George Hill really the only one on the team that know how not to turn it over? The Jazz need to come out and take care of the ball tonight if they want to stop any momentum swings that could control the outcome of the game. Nothing else really needs to be said about this because I think everyone would agree. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz have an added emphasis on taking care of the ball tonight, which I would love to see.
Five. Derrick Favors
I for one am just happy that D-Fav is back, even though he has been pretty quiet since the return. It's good just to see him on the floor. Tonight I think it is a key match-up between him and Julius Randle. Remember when these teams met earlier this season in Salt Lake and Derrick came in and was a HUGE spark plug off the bench. He showed a lot of passion during that game and pretty much dominated when he was in the game. Tonight will be just as important for him to come in and play hard and try to dominate the young Laker bigs!