Preview: Lakers host Jazz, try to extend win-streak to two

After a hard-fought and encouraging win on Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to extend their win-streak to two whole games on Tuesday. LA will host the Utah Jazz, a tough opponent currently in the middle of a race to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

This will be the third of four matchups between the two sides with Utah taking the previous two in close contests.

The Lakers will once again be without Larry Nance, Jr. Tarik Black and Jose Calderon, however, are active although it is unclear whether they will get any playing time.

Utah boasts one of the top defenses in the NBA, currently ranked third as they give up only 101.6 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers are quite clearly better offensively than defensively but against a team like the Jazz, there could be plenty of struggles.

The Lakers, and in particular D’Angelo Russell, will have to focus on improving their rampant turnover rate. When they are not forcing bad or lazy passes, the offense can be stellar. Against Utah’s great defense, that will be of utmost importance.

Furthermore, the Lakers will have to find a way to neutralize Rudy Gobert’s rim protection. The Frenchman is the best shot blocker in the NBA and could be a huge force against Julius Randle and company. The Lakers will have to use quick judgement and passing to beat him around the rim. He can also be at a disadvantage guarding the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations as he does not like to step up. Russell could take advantage in the mid-range game.

Los Angeles will have the fortune of not playing against George Hill who is still nursing an injury. Hill has been a phenomenal point guard since being traded to the Jazz. Utah has plenty of weapons, however, with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood all capable of going off against the Lakers’ porous defense.

This should be a tough matchup for the Lakers. But if they play with the same intensity that they showed against the Clippers in the third quarter of their previous game, they will be able to compete and put themselves in a position to get a big win.

The game will tip off at 7:30 PM PST on Spectrum Sportsnet and NBA TV.

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