Things to watch in Lakers-Jazz game
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at Staples Center on the third day of a three-game stretch.
1. How will the Lakers' energy hold up? This concern goes beyond playing three games on consecutive nights. The veteran-heavy Lakers face a Utah Jazz team that will be playing its first game of the season and has plenty of youth and speed, including Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, rookies Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, and Jeremy Evans. Utah may be less talented than in previous seasons and it's possible it will play be rusty. Besides the fact the Lakers need a win badly, however, they can't afford to allow their weary legs to drag.
2. Utah features a different lineup change. The Salt Lake Tribune's Brian T. Smith reports that Paul Millsap remains a game-time decision because of a right quadriceps tendon. Regardless, the report indicates that Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin plans to start Favors ahead of Millsap at power forward.
Meanwhile, Hayward will get a starting spot at small forward over C.J. Miles. It remains to be seen whether this lineup change will add more spark to the Jazz or create chemistry issues initially.
3. How will Lakers' frontcourt look? Forwards Josh McRoberts (left big toe, left big thumb) and Pau Gasol (right shoulder) have another challenge on with a formidable frontline featuring Al Jefferson, Favors and possibly even Millsap. Last season, the Jazz's methodical post game featured Millsap and Jefferson averaging 35.9 points and 17.3 rebounds. Gasol, in particular, has disappeared both nights in the fourth quarter and took a while against Sacramento before producing. Jefferson's hardly known for his defense, so Gasol must take advantage.
4. Can the Lakers' defense improve? The Lakers took a step back defensively against Sacramento in many ways. They allowed the Kings to go nine of 18 from three-point range. The Tyreke Evans-Marcus Thornton backcourt combined for 47 points. And the Kings cashed in on 19 fast-break points. The Jazz lack an identity right now, so best case scenario involves the Lakers sharpening up on defense. Worst-case scenario, a speedy lineup will continue to make the Lakers look old.
5. Lakers must be patient on offense. The best way to control the pace and tempo is to make better offensive decisions. That will limit turnovers, make Kobe Bryant less inclined to shoot too many shots and bolster the Lakers' poor three-point shooting that it displayed at Sacramento. The Lakers have a chance to put on a show offensively and immediately correct that one-of-16 mark from three-point range.
Last season, Utah struggled to control the paint and perimeter last season, but Corbin reportedly has emphasized funneling players baseline. That proves similar to the Lakers' system last season, which tightened the rotations and ensured stronger communication. Still, the Lakers can attest that change always comes with mixed results.
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Top photo: Kobe Bryant looks at his hands after fumbling the ball away on a last-second shot attempt during the Lakers' 86-85 loss to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, April 5, 2011. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Middle photo: Utah forward Derrick Favors, right, blocks a shot by Lakers forward Pau Gasol last season. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times