Lakers Face Jazz in Series Finale

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It is March 18, 2012 and the (28-16) Los Angeles Lakers defend their home court against the (22-22) Utah Jazz. The Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-92 on 3/16 in Ramon Sessions’ successful debut. The Lakers, winners of five straight, have posted an 8-2 mark in their last 10 games, are making improvements and now possess a league-best 19-2 record at the Staples Center.

The Pacific Division leading Lakers hold the third seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs started today. The Utah Jazz, winners of six of their last 10 games are riding a two-game winning streak. The Jazz, third place in the Northwest Division, are two games out of the playoff picture.

The Lakers lead the current season series (2-1), after splitting last season’s series (2-2). The splitting of last season’s series snapped a four-year season series streak against the Jazz. The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 regular-season games. L.A. has a 20-4 all-time mark against the Jazz at the Staples Center. The Jazz are 5-16 on the road.

The last time these teams met; Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol scored 71 of the Lakers 87 points. The Jazz scored 20 points off 14-Laker turnovers and Utah’s reserves outscored the Lakers reserves 49-12.

Now that Ramon Sessions’ is sporting a purple and gold jersey the Lakers will be the beneficiaries of another playmaker on the floor, another distributor of the basketball and a player with his speed and quickness who can attack off of the pick and roll play.  It is now possible to add a few things to your Laker vernacular such as dribble penetration, easy transition baskets as well as getting teammates the ball when and where they can attack.

The Jazz are a solid rebounding team and had three players combine for 42 rebounds in their 99-92 overtime win against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers owe the Jazz a beat down and Utah has to pay for their transgressions. The purple and gold have to raise their energy level, intensity and continue to come together as a cohesive unit.

The Lakers have to make sure that their defense remains to be their calling card.  It is important that the Lakers stop the dribble penetration of the guards, do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, get back in transition and rotate out to open shooters.

The Lakers bench outscored the T-wolves bench in their previous game, which was a good sign that the purple and gold can turn into a trend. The Laker Nation has been waiting all year for the reserves to be more of a factor on a consistent basis and now have the pieces in place to speed up the game.

The Lakers need to continue to establish Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the painted area and allow them to go to work and dominate this game.

Starters
Lakers: S. Blake, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Jazz: D. Harris, G. Hayward, J. Howard, D. Favors, A. Jefferson

Tip-off: 6:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: FS West (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:

  • Steve Blake (Costochaondral fracture) Probable
  • Kobe Bryant (Nasal Fracture) Probable
  • Darius Morris (Sprained Left Wrist) Day-to-Day

Jazz:

  • Raja Bell (Groin) Day-to-Day
  • Earl Watson (Sprained Left Ankle) Day-to-Day
  • Al Jefferson (Personal) Day-to-Day
Jeff Little is the pre-game writer for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.