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Game Preview: Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers return home to Los Angeles and take on the Utah Jazz. Must win? Playoffs seedings are only drifting further and further away as the season goes on and the losses pile up.

USA TODAY Sports

Showtime

7:30 pm PST

Plot

The Los Angeles Lakers are returning home after a brutal, perhaps even fatal, road trip where they lost every single game. Now, in Staples, they face the Utah Jazz. Yes, the Utah Jazz, a team that the Lakers are 0-2 against this season. Prepare for impact.

It's been a somber season for the Lakers. 2013 hasn't been any kinder than 2012, and just glimpsing at the schedule there's one specific stat that stands out. It isn't defensive efficiency, points per game for Kobe, field goal attempts for Dwight, or team turnovers per game. All of these tidbits are just brush strokes for this disaster the Lakers have created out on the blank canvas that is the hardwood. What they've painted out there amounts to this: The Lakers have won three games since Christmas Day (Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Milwaukee Bucks).

Three games. That's it. Disastrous.

Words are hollow as ever as the continued failing to display the execution and cohesiveness despite the amount of preaching they do leaves spirits lower by the loss. No matter what the media feeds the masses, it's clear the Lakers are struggling on just about every front. The hyperbole "must win" games are becoming true must wins; not to show they are a contender, but to grasp at the final batch of straws left for this season in their quest for a low playoff seeding.

The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, are on a four game winning streak that includes a W over the Miami Heat sandwiched between the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Washington Wizards. Now, the Jazz can keep their momentum flowing against another non-playoff team in the Lakers. The Jazz will be well rested and ready to steamroll a team they've had great success against this season as they've played only three games over the last 11 days.

Looking at these two clubs, the Utah Jazz have been on a tear in 2013, and have lost two games since turning to a new calendar year. The Lakers, however, have only won two games in that same period. The Jazz are one of the teams that the Lakers will need to attempt to leap frog, as they hold onto the 7th seed in the Western Conference, but are a full six games ahead of them in the standings, and are (as mentioned) 2-0 against the Lakers.

Even with Mo Williams out with thumb surgery, the Utah Jazz have moved onward and upward. As has been the case, they've been held down by their tandem of bigs in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, all while Gordon Hayward continues to round out into an effective scorer, in particular from deep (shooting 53.3% from deep over the last 10). In that "last 10" stretch, Hayward is playing 26.4 minutes per game, and is good for 14.6 ppg (44.3% fg, 53.3% 3p), 2.8 rpg, and 2.8 apg. In for the injured Williams has been Jamaal Tinsley, who's done a great job at filling in and keeping the ball moving.

The Lakers need wins. Can they get a much needed win over a low Western Conference playoff seed tonight? After losing the other two meetings, perhaps the third time will be a charm for the Lakers. Dwight Howard will be available after re-aggravating his right shoulder Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, so that's one positive going into the game tonight. After a three game road trip, the Lakers will be holding down whatever is left of their crumbling castle over the next three in Staples, which includes a visit from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday after tonight's game.

On This Soundtrack

Deftones - Deathblow

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- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

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