The Los Angeles Lakers will look to recover from their opening night loss to the Clippers when they take on the Utah Jazz on Friday night in their first (nominal) home game. Utah won their opener, but would love to play spoiler as Anthony Davis is introduced for the first time as a Laker in an official home game.
Davis is looking to bounce back from a fourth quarter in which he was shut out completely during the Lakers’ first loss of the season, though he’ll be looking to do so against the reigning defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert. Given everything it took to get Davis to the Lakers, it would be quite the disappointment should he open the season up with a rough couple of games (at least by his standards).
LeBron James wasn’t much better in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, though he’ll face a much easier counterpart at his position on Friday than he did in Kawhi Leonard. Joe Ingles is one of the league’s better role players, but Leonard was objectively the better player, and there aren’t many people who can make that claim with James on the court.
Kyle Kuzma will remain out against Utah on Friday night, though judging by his Twitter feed, his return does seem to be coming sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere in injury news, Rajon Rondo is working his way back from a sore calf, but if he is available, Frank Vogel says he’s going to be featured heavily. Great.
One thing to watch for is how the Lakers handle Utah’s threats coming out of the pick-and-roll. The Clippers feasted off the Lakers’ drop coverage in those situations (meaning the center focuses more on keeping the ball-handler from getting to the rim but allows mid-range jumpers), and so will Donovan Mitchell if he’s presented similar opportunities consistently. If the Lakers hope to defend any better than they did Tuesday night, this will be a great place to start.
There is also the matter of slowing down Mike Conley. The Jazz’s big offseason addition may have went 1-16 in his Jazz debut, but at practice on Thursday, James called that “the worst thing that could have happened,” implying that Conley will be due for this game. And even if he’s not, that may not even be the Jazz’s most dangerous end of the floor.
“One thing about their team is they’re always going to be very good, very solid defensively,” James told reporters on Thursday. “You have to be very strategic with your drives, Gobert is in there clogging up the paint. You’ve got to play a very smart game.”
Should L.A. not figure any of that out, or rely too heavily on post possessions on offense, the Lakers will start what was widely considered the most promising season in years 0-2, and the noise will get pretty loud around the decision-makers on this team.
Tip-off from Staples Center is 7:30 p.m. PDT. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
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