The Los Angeles Lakers get to enjoy some home cooking with their families after their long road trip and already cashed in on a win in their return to STAPLES Center. The Utah Jazz will be a tougher outing than a Clippers team sans Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and they’ve continued to serve as a great way to measure the Lakers’ growth.
Utah is in playoff position, currently slotted as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. Their 18-13 record is enough to get them a playoff berth as it stands, while the No. 8 seed might just go to a sub-.500 team. Injuries look like the only thing hampering Utah from making some sweet music this season, with Alec Burks, Dante Exum and George Hill all out with a variety of injuries.
The Lakers are 0-2 against Utah, having a hard time dealing with Rudy Gobert’s defensive prowess around the rim. Gordon Hayward has continued to be a problem for the Lakers, becoming one of the toughest matchups the team deals with in the Pacific division. He dropped 26 points in the Jazz’s last win over LA, while Rodney Hood hit big shots down the stretch to close things out.
Christmas Day nearly amounted to another Lakers’ collapse but Lou Williams and D’Angelo Russell did enough to hang on. It would be nice for the Lakers to play a consistent good game from front to back, though leaving fans anxious seems to be their modus operandi after going 2-12 through December. Perhaps D’Angelo Russell can take control while Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto hold down the point guard fort for Utah.
There are just two Lakers games left in 2016, and what looked like the start of something fresh and exciting turned into another frustrating hoops campaign. Closing out the year with a couple of wins and a fresh year sounds splendid, especially when considering the Lakers are only a handful of games back from the final playoff spot being held by the Sacramento Kings. Enjoy the game as we wrap up another year of basketball, and let’s hope playing with purpose is a New Year’s resolution the Lakers get in the swing of early.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV