Utah Jazz (8-23) vs L.A. Lakers (13-16)
Tip Off @ 7:00 p.m. MST
Projected Starting Lineups
PG – Trey Burke
SG – Gordon Hayward
SF – Richard Jefferson
PF – Marvin Williams
C – Derrick Favors
PG – Jordan Farmar
SG – Jodie Meeks
SF – Wesley Johnson
PF – Shawne Williams
C – Pau Gasol
First off, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and enjoyed their holiday!
Tonight’s game was circled as a big game earlier this month due to Kobe Bryant returning from an achilles injury. Now, Bryant is hurt again and out for roughly 5 more weeks. So, we don’t get to see the Lakers with Bryant. The Lakers are already without Steve Nash and Steve Blake, but Pau Gasol supposedly didn’t travel with the team to Utah due to injury. If that is true, the Lakers would be without 4 big pieces tonight.
Having Gasol out could help the Jazz, however. The Jazz have been outrebounded in 8 of their last 9 games, but without Gasol, the Lakers have the worst +/- rebounding margin at -5.0.
The Jazz are coming home after playing their last 5 games on the road, where they finished with a respectable 2-3 record. Coming home usually means good news for the Jazz, tonight however, they are looking to bounce back at home. The Jazz have lost 4 straight games at Energy Solutions Arena. However, 3 of those 4 games came at the hands of “elite” teams, including the Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs.
Gordon Hayward is coming off one of his best games, where he was 1 assist shy of his first career triple-double. Trey Burke played well in the Jazz wins, but during 2 of the 3 losses struggled, and he struggled badly. The key to the Jazz needs to be consistency. Especially with their young point guard. Burke played terrible against the Heat, then bounced back and played a career best game against the Magic, but then dropped an egg against the Hawks in their next game.
Key Matchup : Defending Nick Young
Nick Young has been on a tear his last 6 games. Over those last 6 games, he is 19 of 38 from 3 point range and is averaging 20.8 ppg. Against the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, Young shot nearly 60% from 3 point range alone.
In the last 6 games, however, the Lakers are 2-4. Young in the 2 wins, shot over 55% from the field. In the 4 losses, Young shot the ball 38% from the field.
Young is the Lakers’ spark plug off the bench. The Jazz bench has not played well as of late, but this should be Alec Burks assignment to take. Burke likes to drive to the basket and draw contact. If he can get Young into foul trouble, that could affect Young’s production. Should be a fantastic matchup.
At home, the Jazz are scoring about 94 points per game, while shooting 43% from the field. The Lakers on the other hand, are scoring about 97 points per game and shooting 42% from the field on the road.
The Lakers have lost 3 games in a row and look to be without their final key pieces tonight in Pau Gasol. Already missing Kobe and Nash, this could affect the Lakers play. Nick Young however, is a fantastic player that can light it up in a hurry. The Jazz will need to focus on stopping him.
The Jazz finished the road trip respectably. The play of the Jazz has been improving, but now they need to show it at home. The Jazz are worst in the Western Conference with an 8-23 record. Surprisingly, only 3 wins have come at home.
There is a chance the Jazz come out with a little holiday hangover tonight. The Lakers played on Christmas Day so shouldn’t have too much of the same problem. However, with a possibility of Gasol out, that could be a hangover of it’s own. Vote on who you think will win tonight’s matchup, then tell us in the comment section how you see the game playing out!