The (54-21) Los Angeles Lakers are back home at the Staples Center to host the red-hot (50-26) Utah Jazz.

First the good news, the five-game road trip is over, Kobe Bryant has signed a three-year contract extension, and after 24-games; Luke Walton has returned.

Now the bad news, the Lakers are facing a team that is playing at a high level and has won eight of their last 10 games.

The Lakers are coming off of a horrible road trip; the team struggled mightily throughout the trip defensively. The frustration with their play of late has affected everyone on the team. Things have gone from questioning if the Lakers will repeat, to questioning if the Lakers will make it out of the first round.

I don’t agree with this assessment of the Purple and Gold, but I do understand the argument. As a fan of a team, you can’t simply give them a pass when they’re playing bad. I’m quite sure several members of the Lakers Nation can recall the late great Lakers legend Chick Hearn calling out the team when the team wasn’t getting the job done.

If you remove the second half of the Spurs game to start the road trip, the team has not looked good at all. Despite this fact I can honestly say that the team we have witnessed of late will not be the team we will see in the Playoffs later this month.

The Lakers have had problems stopping the dribble penetration of several point guards and tonight face one of the league’s best in Derron Williams. The Lakers are vulnerable, a cause for mild concern, although the team has won 13 straight times against Utah in Los Angeles and seven-of-10 overall. They need to build some momentum heading into the Playoffs. There is no better time to start then the present by snapping their losing streak tonight.

It might surprise some, but the return of Luke Walton should provide the team a boost, especially the reserves. Walton’s knowledge of the offense and passing ability should increase the bench production. It is something that the team is desperately in need of. Success or failure with our team rests on the defense, everyone wearing a Lakers jersey is aware of that and not making any excuses.

The Lakers need to go back to doing what they do best, by pounding the ball on the inside and destroying the interior of the Jazz defense. It is imperative that the Lakers establish Pau Gasol in the painted area and allow him to go to work. The Purple and Gold have to play solid defense and limit the Jazz to one shot per possession, eliminate their turnovers, control the tempo, stop the dribble penetration, shut down the screen and roll action plays, and out-rebound this team.

The Lakers are 2-1 in the season series and must increase the advantage to 3-1. The Lakers will win tonight an snap the losing steak and in the process provide a birthday present to Jaime Quintanilla.

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: ESPN & FS West (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
  • Utah: ESPN & FSN Utah (Craig Bolerjack & Ron Boone)

Radio -

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

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Left Achilles Strain) Out
  • Kobe Bryant ( Avulsion fracture of his right index finger, Sprained Left Ankle)
  • Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb) listed Day-to-Day
  • Ron Artest (Sprained Left Thumb) listed Day-to-Day
  • Lamar Odom (Sprained Shoulder) listed Day-to-Day

Jazz:

  • PF Andrei Kirilenko (Strained Left Calf Muscle)