The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of six of the best quarters they’ve played this season, let alone throughout LeBron James’ absence. Still, they have a tough task heading into Utah on Friday night to take on a Jazz team that has turned things around and is fighting to get into the already insane Western Conference playoff picture.
Kyle Kuzma will be playing in front of a crowd that rooted for him in college, coming off of arguably the best game of his career. Before Wednesday night’s 41-point explosion against the Detroit Pistons, Kuzma’s shooting had been somewhat disappointing, if that game marked a turnaround in his season and he can consistently shoot anywhere near as well as he did against his hometown team, the Lakers’ offense can start to make a lot more sense.
Lonzo Ball has played two straight strong games after Luke Walton called him and Brandon Ingram out, which led to a late-night conversation between the two about what they have to do to properly lead the team while James is out.
One adjustment Walton has made has been to utilize Ball more as a driving force of the offense. Over the last two games, the Lakers have scored 112.2 points per 100 possessions, which is the same rate the Denver Nuggets — who rank sixth in the NBA in offensive efficiency — have scored at on the season. Two games is obviously a small sample size, but the stats meet the eye test on this one.
Walton is having Ball direct the offense more, and has pushed Ingram into a role that makes a little more sense for him, too. Rather than having to take on a stationary defense one-on-five, Ingram has been able to take advantage of rotating defenses. His last two games have featured his highest scoring output of the season (29) and an all-around impact game (10 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists).
Ingram still isn’t shooting particularly well from the outside, but as Walton said before the win Wednesday night, all that matters is that Ingram helps the team win, and he has.
The Jazz have been mostly inconsistent this season, but playing them in Utah has historically been one of the tougher tasks in the NBA. As they’ve already started to turn things around, this one won’t be easy, despite the Jazz having a few injury concerns of their own.
Grayson Allen - OUT (right ankle sprain)— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 11, 2019
Tony Bradley - OUT (right knee surgery)
Danté Exum - OUT (left ankle sprain)
Tip-off for this one is 7:00 PM PST. It will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet and nationally on ESPN.