The (18-3) Los Angeles Lakers, currently on an 11-game winning streak embark on a 5-game 9-day road trip starting tonight facing the (13-9) Utah Jazz in the first of three back-to-back games.
Playing on the road is always difficult, but to make matters worse, Kobe Bryant is probable for tonight’s game. Kobe left the game, but later returned with said finger taped. It isn’t surprising to see Bryant play through an injury he has made a career of playing in pain and simply answering the bell.
He expects to play despite the injury, but it is a matter of his pain tolerance and how effective he can be. The long road trip will test the leagues best team after the luxury of playing the first 17-games of the season (a league high) at home.
In Fridays win against the T-Wolves, Pau Gasol scored 17 points and grabbed and impressive career high 20 rebounds, he was three assists shy of a triple-double. The Lakers separated themselves from Minnesota with a 10-0 run in the third quarter.
Throughout the Purple and Gold winning streak the starters have been outstanding, but what shouldn’t go unnoticed is the consistency of Jordan Farmar sparking the second unit and the team’s defense.
The reserves have been finding a rhythm and contributing at home and scored 35 points in Friday’s win. The Lakers need the reserves to remain consistent and contribute when given minutes. The last time these teams met the Lakers defense turned a close game into a blowout, by completely shutting down the Jazz, limiting them to six points and two field goals in the final period. The Lakers pulled away by outscoring them 28-6.
The Jazz are tough to beat at home and I fully expect this game to be toughest of the road trip. The team showed great resolve by coming back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Orlando Magic 120-111 on Thursday. The Jazz will play much better at home and at a higher level, and after being embarrassed in the last game, with a sense of urgency the Lakers will have to match the intensity of their opponent.
The Lakers need to continue to start their offense from the inside out by establishing Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum in the painted area. Kobe will have his injured finger in a splint, but trust me when I say that he will find a way to be effective and control the game. Los Angeles needs to limit the impact of the tandem of Deron Williams & Carlos Boozer.
The Lakers need to jump on this team early to take the crowd out of the game by stopping the dribble penetration, control the tempo, the boards and rotate out to three point shooters. The Jazz are excellent executing their half court offense so the Lakers need to play defense without fouling.
Tip-off: 6:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: KCAL-TV9 (Joel Myers & “Hot” Rod Hundley)
- Utah: FSN Utah (Craig Bolerjack & Ron Boone)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Luke Walton)
- Utah: 1320 AM KFAN (David Locke, David James & Patrick Kinehan)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture of right Index Finger)
- Luke Walton (Back)
- D.J. Mbenga (Sprained Ankle)
- Andrei Kirilenko (Back)
- Ronnie Price (Foot)
- Kyle Korver (Knee)
- Matt Harpring (Knee & Ankle)