Lakers in the Crossroads of the West

Photo: Getty Images

It’s Saturday February 4, 2012 and the (14-9) Los Angeles Lakers are in the 45th state to join the union to battle the hobbled (12-9) Utah Jazz in a back-to-back game. The Lakers kept their composure, relied on their defense and survived late game scares, the onslaught of the Nuggets potent bench to win a close hard fought game in Denver.

The Nuggets bench outscored the Lakers bench 46 to 21. However, the Lakers, led by all star’s Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum opened their six-game Grammy road trip with a win. Kobe’s shot was off, but Bryant still posted a 20-point, grabbed six rebounds, nine assist, and three steals effort.

Kobe Bryant, number six on the all-time NBA scoring list has scored 28,547 points in his Hall of Fame career. Bryant is averaging 29.5 points per game this season. At that rate he should surpass former Laker Shaquille O’Neal and move into the number five slot in his hometown of Philadelphia, the third stop of the Grammy trip.

Andrew Bynum was dominant, posting a solid 22-point, 10 rebound, three blocked shots effort and Pau Gasol posted a double-double as well and was also dominate on the boards grabbing a season-high 17-rebounds. The Lakers had five players score in double digits and Andrew Goudelock was impressive scoring 13 points off the bench.

Tonight’s match up against the depleted Jazz has ‘trap game’ written all over it. The Jazz are dealing with their starting backcourt and a key reserve guard out due to injuries. The Lakers have to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that the Jazz are a wounded opponent that they can easily defeat.

The Lakers lead the season series (2-0) after splitting last season’s 2-2. The split snapped four years worth of season series victories: 2006-07 (2-1), 2007-08 (3-1), 2008-09 (2-1) 2009-10 (3-1) for the purple and gold. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 game against the Jazz. The Lakers have won their last two games at Energy Solutions Arena and have gone 5-5 in their last 10 regular season games in Utah. The Jazz are on a two-game losing streak despite scoring over 100-points in each contest.

The Lakers can acquire their second win of the Grammy trip by tightening the screws of their defense. The Lakers defense as a whole has been solid, but there is room for improvement. Despite starting two seven-footers, offensive rebounding seems to remain a problem.

The Lakers formula for success would be to communicate on defense do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, box out their men and then acquire the rebound. The Lakers have to limit the Jazz to one shot per possession, win the battle for rebounds and quickly rotate out to open shooters.

Starters
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Jazz:
J. Tinsley, G. Hayward, J. Howard, 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:

  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Big Toe) Probable
  • Kobe  Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
  • Steve Blake (Bruised Ribs) Out

Jazz:

  • Devin Harris (Strained Left Hamstring) Out
  • Earl Watson (Sprained Left Ankle) Out
  • Raja Bell (Strained Right Adductor) Out

 

 

Jeff Little is the pre-game writer for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.