Photo by Jed Jacobsohn | Getty Images

The (7-4) Los Angeles Lakers are in the 45th state to join the union, Utah, to battle the (6-3) Jazz. On Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant erupted against the Phoenix Suns scoring 48-points on 18-of-31 shooting. Clearly, the black mamba doesn’t like the Suns.

Kobe’s 48-point outburst was the most ever by a player in his 16th season. In the words of Kobe Bryant, the future hall of fame player who refuses to be counted out or disrespected “not bad for the 7th best player in the league”. In fact, three of Kobe’s six highest scoring games were against the Suns.

The Lakers needed Bryant’s huge scoring effort with 37 points from the front line and only 14 from the bench. The biggest questions going into tonight’s match up are; can Kobe keep up this torrid pace? What will Kobe Bryant do for an encore?

Bryant is averaging 29.5 points per game this season, but in his last five-games, he has increased his average to 36 points on 51.4% shooting while attempting 9.4 free throws.

There will be people who will say that Kobe has returned to having the mentality of a gunner. The truth of the matter is that Kobe is getting much more comfortable in Mike Brown’s offense. Brown’s offense is a lot less restrictive than the triangle offense and it turns Kobe loose to be able to dominate the ball and become much more difficult to stop.

The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 regular season games at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz are an improved team that is currently on a 5-game winning streak. The Lakers have a one-game lead in the season series, in the first game L.A. got their first win of the year by completely dismantling the Jazz.

The Kobe Bryant vs. Raja Bell match up will be fun to watch, however will continue on his torrid pace and lead the Lakers in scoring. L.A. needs to get more production from their front line. Both Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol are finding their way in the new offense, but are facing different predicaments.

Both of the Lakers big men need more shots. Bynum has to do a better job of fighting for the ball, once he gets the ball he needs to do a better job of reading the situation. Teams are aggressively double-teaming him and Bynum needs to recognize it coming and make a solid pass to the cutter.

Pau Gasol has been productive as well, but the Lakers need more from him. L.A. defensively needs to play solid against the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, defend, get back in transition, rebound and limit the Jazz to one shot per possession.

Tonight’s game gives the Lakers an excellent opportunity to provide playing time to Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. There is a steep learning curve for all rookies and young players, teaching them what is expected of them, how to be effective and how to be professionals has to start now.

Starters

Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Barnes, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Jazz:
D. Harris, R. Bell, G. Hayward, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson

Tip-off: 6:00 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: KCAL/9 (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Utah: FS Utah (Craig Bolerjack & Ron Boone)

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Utah: 1320 AM KFAN (David Locke, David James & Patrick Kinehan)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Derrick Caracter (Torn Lateral Meniscus, Left Knee) Out
  • Kobe  Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
  • Pau Gasol (Sprained Right Shoulder) Probable
  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Thumb & Left Big Toe) Doubtful
  • Matt Barnes (Bursitis, Left Hip) Day-to-Day
  • Troy Murphy (Gastroenteritis) Out
  • Jason Kapono (Personal) Out

      Jazz:

None