After a hearty comeback attempt in Portland last night, the Los Angeles Lakers return back to action on the second night of a back-to-back in Utah where they look for their first win of the year against the Jazz.
In the three previous meetings this season, the Jazz have picked up wins, though each game has been by single digits with the last game seeing Utah win by just two, 102-100.
Here’s three keys for the Lakers to pick up their first win over Utah this season.
1. No slow starts
This is probably apropos to every game, but tonight and for the next few games, it is especially critical with the starting line-up the Lakers will put on the floor. With a bench unit that appears to be back to full strength (knock on wood), the Lakers need to once again avoid huge early-game deficits that the bench unit is forced to crawl out of.
Last night, it was Damian Lillard who scorched the Lakers and Jose Calderon, especially early on. Tonight should be a slightly more favorable match-up as George Hill is not quite as potent as Lillard.
2. Fresh legs
The lineups used against Portland were very bench-heavy, and rightfully so considering how well they played. However, it led to Jordan Clarkson played 34 minutes, Nick Young played 30 and Lou Williams playing just 28, but nearly the entirety of the second half.
On the flip side, guys like Tarik Black (eight minutes), Julius Randle (20 minutes) and Brandon Ingram (13 minutes) should be a bit fresher than a normal game on the second night of a back-to-back.
Williams, Clarkson and Young carried the team much of last night, so some of the fresh legs will likely need to step up and pick up the slack tonight.
3. Control the glass
Tonight is one of the rare occasions during the season when the Lakers are more likely to go big than small. With Utah’s big front line, the Lakers will need to match size with size. And with Larry Nance, Jr. still on a minutes restriction, be prepared for some more Ivica Zubac-Tarik Black front court action.
In the last outing, the Lakers and Jazz finished tied in rebounding and it was a close game that came down to the final minute. Limiting what the Jazz can do on the glass will go a long way toward a victory.
Call me pessimistic, but it’s hard to imagine the Lakers not only bouncing back from a loss to win, but also doing so on the road. Without D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ offense lacks creativity and play-making and that will continue to come back to bite them. Utah Jazz win 98-86.