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Utah Jazz

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February 10, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers continue their 3-game home series before the All-Star break to play vs. Utah Jazz. This game feature two bottom-dwelling teams who find themselves destined for a high pick in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft.

Despite playing vs. a very shorthanded Bulls team on Sunday, the Lakers could not quite get over the hump after a 4th quarter comeback attempt.

In Sunday’s game, C Chris Kaman, scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he led the Lakers throughout the game. That’s right, the same Chris Kaman who Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has benched for reasons only known to him. Arguably one of the most fundamentally skilled big man in the game, the former all-star Kaman could have actually helped the Lakers stay afloat throughout this season so Laker Nation would not have had to witness the current atrocity the Lakers currently sit themselves in.

Well, they unfortunately witness a team that currently sits in 13th place in the Western Conference only ahead of the Jazz and Sacramento Kings.

We can criticize D’Antoni for a lot of things, but we will wait to speak on that in another conversation.

Anyways, PG Steve Nash currently stands in a dicey situation once again, as he left Sunday’s game as a precaution to his nerve irritation issues. Nash practiced Monday and is currently slated to play tonight vs. Jazz.

“It’s a little irritated, the nerve, but I’m hoping I can be better tomorrow and can play,” Nash told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin.

Hopefully Nash’s nerve irritation will not flare up again tomorrow and in the future as he has done everything he could to recover from his injury issues when nobody else would have.

The Jazz’s season has been one to forget for them also. After going 43-39 last season and slightly missing the playoffs, the Jazz decided to completely rebuild, letting key players like C Al Jefferson and current All-Star PF Paul Millsap go via free-agency. Jazz F Gordan Hayward leads this rebuilding team, having a very solid season showcasing his all-around talents scoring a very solid 16.3 PPG, grabbing 5.5 RPG, and dishing out 5.0 APG this season. Jazz’s prized rookie PG Trey Burke who averages 12.7 PPG and 5.5 APG, will be questionable tonight vs. Lakers due to a score back. although he shot 3-15 vs the Lakers during their last meeting, Burke definitely has the potential to torch the Lakers tonight with his scoring ability.

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke / Steve Nash [Advantage: Even]
SG - Gordon Hayward / Steve Blake [Advantage: Jazz]
SF - Richard Jefferson / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]
PF - Marvin Williams / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Even]
C - Derrick Favors Chris Kaman [Advantage: Jazz]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, F Jeremy Evans, PG John Lucas III, C Enes Kanter
Lakers: F Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, PG Kendall Marshall

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Jazz: Questionable-PG Trey Burke
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, , Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-PG Jordan Farmar Out-PG Jodie Meeks, Probable-PG Steve Nash

Keys for Lakers Victory

Feed the Big: The Lakers currently have only 9 healthy players at this current moment. Currently their most productive player, Chris Kaman just scored 27 points vs. a stout Bulls defense led by All-Star C Joakim Noah and PF Taj Gibson. in fact, Kaman actually leads current active Lakers in scoring per 36 minutes, scoring 19.5 PPG in that span. Jazz starting C Derrick Favors is talented, but small, so hopefully the Lakers and coach D’Antoni can take advantage of the mismatch in the post, resulting in more wide-open three-pointers and conserving the legs of Lakers players.

Bottom Line

Regardless of the talks of tanking, the Lakers have to continue to play every game with a lot of effort and execute on both ends of the floor. Most of the players on the floor currently do not play only for the Lakers, but also seek to impress General Managers and Scouts throughout the NBA to receive their next contracts. Despite the pessimism going into this game after losing vs. Bulls, the Lakers should have enough firepower to squeak past the Jazz to gain momentum until they have to play vs. F Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Prediction

Lakers: 103-98

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

January 3, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Many Lakers fans have gotten torn with this “million-dollar” question as the year 2014 begins.

Should the Lakers tank or not?

As our own Laker Nation columnist Johnny Navarrette stated exceptionally well in his piece “Struggling Lakers Face Critical January Schedule”, the Lakers have a high possibility of tanking, intentionally or not, thanks to a combination of multiple injuries and a very tough schedule moving forward.

The ship for the Los Angeles Lakers (13-19) is sinking quickly  as they face the Utah Jazz (11-24) tonight. The Milwaukee Bucks looked like the San Antonio Spurs during the New Years Eve beat down of the Lakers that many unfortunate Laker fans had to witness.  This will be the 3rd of a 4 game home series, which is supposed to be the easiest series for the Lakers on paper. However, the Lakers have already lost the first 2 games, so they would have to win these next 2 games to salvage this series.

To make matters worse, Lakers PG Jordan Farmar is now out for at least 4 more weeks tearing his hamstring again vs. Bucks. The injury to Farmar leads PG Kendall Marshall, who played in the D-League a month ago, to lead the Lakers as the only healthy ball-handler on the roster.

Tonight, expect the Jazz can cause the Lakers more problems tonight like they did during their last meeting a week ago. The Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 43-37 and held them to 30.4 % shooting from behind the 3 pt. line. Jazz F Gordan Hayward showcased his all-around talents vs. the Lakers, scoring 24 pts, dishing out 9 assists, and grabbing 5 rebounds  on the Lakers and has averaged a very solid 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.8 APG this season. With 1 healthy ball-handler available for the Lakers, expect Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke who averages 13.7 PPG and 5.0 APG, to go off for another career high tonight as the Lakers have been playing their worst basketball in ages.

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Jazz]

SG - Gordon Hayward Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]

SF - Richard Jefferson Nick Young [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Derrick Favors Robert Sacre [Advantage: Jazz]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, F Jeremy Evans, PG John Lucas III, C Enes Kanter

Lakers:  F Wesley Johnson, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, F Shawne Williams

Bench Advantage: Jazz

Injury List

Jazz: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar Probable-F Wesley Johnson

Keys for Lakers Victory

Play Relaxed: At this current moment, zero expectations exist for the current Lakers roster. Instead of trying really hard to live up to the “Lakers” name, the Lakers have to play relaxed, which should lead to a higher shooting percentage. Lately, the Lakers have not defeated any teams since their shots cannot fall through the rim. Furthermore, the Lakers have zero ball-handlers on the floor outside of Marshall. Hopefully, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni decides to run his offense mainly through C Chris Kaman and C/F Pau Gasol, who are now arguably the best play-makers on the Lakers right now. Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G/F Nick Young, should be able to receive uncontested shots if Gasol and Kaman can play well from the post and create open shots for the Lakers perimeter players.

Bottom Line

After the worst loss of the season for the Lakers, they are now officially in “rock bottom”. Fortunately, they cannot get any worse from their current state and only have room to improve. After 2 days off, look for the Lakers to come out with a lot of energy and prove that they are trying to win every game. Right now, difficulties exist for fans who try to make a case that the Lakers can come away with a victory tonight vs. Jazz. Hopefully, the Lakers can somehow play very relaxed tonight and come away with a victory to start the 2014 year right.

Prediction

Jazz: 95-85

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Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

December 27, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-16) travel to the Salt Lake City for a very quick trip to play Utah Jazz (8-23), who are not a very good team and seems to be preparing for a high draft pick for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like the Lakers, the Jazz will have the ability to sign high-priced free agents this off-season by making off-season trades to clear their salary cap.

However, Jazz can cause the Lakers’s defense a lot of problems. Regardless of who plays on the Lakers, the Jazz have always marked the Lakers on their calendar and we should expect them to play with a lot of passion and energy. Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke has played exceptionally well after missing the first 12 games recovering from a broken finger, averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.9 APG. Also, the Jazz have F Gordan Hayward, who has the skills to shoot over smaller defenders and drive to the basket, has averaged a very solid 15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Hayward will become a free-agent following the season, and I expect a lot of NBA teams offer him a long-term contract.

The Lakers are coming off a very tough loss vs. Miami Heat after playing with a very good spirit and a lot of energy to stay close. G/F Nick Young has led the way for most of the season coming off the bench by having the ability to create his own shot and has averaged a very solid 15.7 PPG, which leads all NBA 6th man, this season. However, the Lakers will be without the services of C Pau Gasol tonight due to an upper respiratory infection that has still caused him problems stemming from last Saturday. Gasol will definitely be missed by the Lakers tonight after playing very solidly recently, becoming more aggressive and looking much slimmer compared to the beginning of the season. Look for C Robert Sacre and C Chris Kaman to fill in Gasol’s role tonight despite Head Coach Mike D’Antoni proclamation that Ryan Kelly will take both of their minutes to spread the floor even more.

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Jazz]

SG - Gordon Hayward / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]

SF - Richard Jefferson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Jazz]

C - Derrick Favors Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, Jeremy EvansPG John Lucas III, Enes Kanter

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungXavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Keep Guards out of the Paint: Although it might seem like kicking a dead horse at this point, the Lakers need to stop letting opposing guards drive to the basket without any resistance and let them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will not be much easier, as they try to keep both Burke and Hayward outside of the paint. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. This is also the main cause for opposing post players to have career highs vs. Lakers continuously this season.
  2. Do Not Allow 2nd Chance PossessionsThe Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. This is another factor that results in career high performances from non-superstar players from opposing teams. With D’Antoni sitting out their post players like Kaman and Sacre and prioritizing 3-point shooting more, proper fundamentals to box out opposing players like C/F Derrick Favors and C Enes Kanter becomes a high priority since they both possess a significant weight advantage over whoever the Lakers will put out on the floor tonight.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to have their head on straight and play with good fundamentals and high energy tonight to defeat the Jazz. Once again, the opposing team has more talent than the Lakers at least in the starting lineup, so the Lakers cannot rely on talent and play complacent to win tonight. However, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return should once again stabilize the Lakers’ offense and defensive ends as a vocal floor leader for the Lakers. If they play with as much energy and passion as their last game, Laker Nation should be in a good mood after tonight’s victory.

Prediction

Lakers: 99-96

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