The Los Angeles Lakers try to rinse away back-to-back losses to the Golden State Warriors Thursday night when they face the Utah Jazz. Utah is the lone Western Conference team that finished below the Lakers last season, and they've also brought on a new head coach in former Lakers assistant Quin Snyder.
Utah mostly stuck to the script this off-season, cutting some fat from the roster while locking in franchise centerpiece Gordon Hayward with a four-year, $62.9 million contract. The biggest change for Utah, aside from Snyder, is the addition of Australian point guard of mystery Dante Exum.
The Jazz aren't the Jazz of yesteryear, grinding teams down with a slow, plodding offense. Utah has moved on to running plenty of pick-and-roll action with Exum and 2013 top-10 pick Trey Burke handling the ball, and will try to spread the Lakers out defensively. Los Angeles has struggled, even looking "discombobulated," as Scott put it following the shellacking the Splash Bros. put them through. If things are clicking for Utah it'll be a challenging night.
The good news for Los Angeles is the Jazz aren't a roaring machine like Golden State. They still have soul searching to do as a team and don't have the same level of talent the Warriors do. The bad news is the injury bug continues claiming victims, and Steve Nash is not expected to play Thursday after aggravating his back issues while carrying his bags Wednesday.
That leaves the Lakers with one true point guard in Ronnie Price, who might resort to throwing a shoe at his opponents when push comes to shove. Jeremy Lin is aiming to make his return on Sunday, and Jordan Clarkson is still out with a strained calf.
This should be a welcome break for the Lakers after seemingly regressing through those two games against Golden State. It should also help that Scott has begun easing up on training camp. Utah has plenty of talent with Hayward, Exum, Burke, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, so it won't be a walk in the park. Without the jarring barrage of offense Los Angeles should have an opportunity to get into a groove, though. Just like they did against Golden State, the Lakers will face Utah twice in a row. Let's see how they match up in Game 1.
Time: 7 p.m. PT
Station: TWCSN, NBA TV