Jazz as dangerous as ever despite four-game losing streak, Lakers believe
The familiarity between the Lakers and Jazz runs so deep that L.A. guard Kobe Bryant remarked that the teams "could flip-flop jerseys and execute just as well." The familiarity runs so deep between the teams that Lakers assistant Frank Hamblen has joked that he knows Utah Coach Jerry Sloan so well he "knows what he ate for dinner." And the familiarity between the Lakers and Jazz run so deep that they're expecting anything could happen in Tuesday's game at Staples Center.
The two teams match up under circumstances that are far from usual, though. The Jazz (27-17) enter their meeting with the Lakers (32-13) on a four-game losing streak, the first time the team's gone through such a stretch since January 2009. It was only a few weeks ago that Utah stood among the top Western Conference teams, including the San Antonio Spurs (37-7), Oklahoma City (28-15), Dallas (28-25) and of course the Lakers. After going on a winless East Coast trip that included losses to sub-.500 opponents in the Washington Wizards (13-29), New Jersey Nets (12-32) and Philadelphia 76ers (18-25).
"I haven't seen those games," Bryant said. "Probably just it being a long season and everyone goes through tough stretches."
At least enough of a tough stretch for the Jazz to offer plenty of explanations on why the team has struggled, including the departures of Carlos Boozer, Wesley Mathews and Kyle Korver, team chemistry and effort. But don't consider the Lakers believing that Utah's sixth-place standing in the West means anything. Despite their 16-game home winning streak against Utah dating back to 2006, the Lakers contend that it doesn't signify any dominance against Utah.
"Most of the time it's just a game of will," Lakers guard Derek Fisher summed up.
The Lakers have plenty of reason to offer a respectful tone toward the Jazz. One, the Lakers have largely respected Utah's refusal to cave in to adversity. On Nov. 19, L.A. lost 102-96 in Utah. And they're very aware of how Dallas ended its six-game losing streak last week with a win over the Lakers, an outcome that led Coach Phil Jackson to argue, "We know [the Jazz] are capable of coming out of that real quick.
"We understand they're trying to snap out of that," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "They're going to be hungry and we have to be ready to play and compete. What better chance to do that against the Lakers on their home court."
-- Mark Medina
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