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Lakers vs. Jazz Preview: The start of a tough stretch

The Lakers start what could be a difficult four games with a matchup against the Utah Jazz.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Update: It looks like the Jazz really don’t want the Lakers to fall further in the standings, and will be resting their best players against L.A. on Saturday, so one of these games just got more winnable.

Original story follows below.

After finishing up a stretch against a couple of easier opponents, getting a win over the banged-up Charlotte Hornets before dropping a winnable game against the barely over .500 Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers (34-22) appear to have a tougher few games in front of them as they look to hang on to the fifth-seed in the Western Conference.

In their next four contests, the Lakers will play two games in a row against the Utah Jazz, then follow it up with a pair of games against the Dallas Mavericks, a pair of teams in the thick of the West playoff race this season. The Jazz have the best record in the conference, while the Mavericks are in the seventh-spot, just three games back of the Lakers, making those two matchups potentially very relevant in the hunt for final seeding, and this stretch a potentially dangerous one.

But before the Lakers head to Dallas, they’ll be hosting the Jazz twice at Staples Center, with the first matchup coming on Saturday. As of publishing time, the Lakers are just two games up on Portland Trail Blazers in the standings, so two battles with the top team in the West this season aren’t necessarily coming at a great time if the Lakers are looking to avoid slipping down in the seeding race.

The Jazz will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back in a game that will take place early Saturday afternoon, so the Lakers — who had Friday off — will actually have the rest advantage in this one. But that might be the only advantage they have, because while the Jazz could be missing star Donovan Mitchell, who sprained his ankle in their Friday win over the Indiana Pacers and is getting an MRI tonight, it’s fair to say that the Lakers are dealing with even more injuries.

For starters, while Anthony Davis has been cleared for a full return to basketball activity, he’s not returning against the Jazz. Starting point guard Dennis Schröder is also dealing with an infection in the ball of his foot that left him nearly unable to play on Thursday, while starting center Andre Drummond had the big toe that he lost a toenail from re-aggravated and missed the loss to the Celtics, and replacement starter Marc Gasol dislocated and fractured his pinkie in that game. Plus, Davis’ replacement in the starting lineup, Markieff Morris, has missed the last two games with a left ankle sprain.

That’s in addition to injuries to Kyle Kuzma (left calf strain) and Wesley Matthews (right Achilles tendon tightness) that haven’t kept them out of games but are still hampering them enough to be on the injury report, and with Jared Dudley and LeBron James both set to miss plenty more time.

Basically, to say the Lakers are banged up right now is an understatement.

Still, with the Lakers having the rest advantage and the Jazz potentially overlooking the zombified remains of this roster, maybe they’ll have a chance. This team fights hard nearly every night, the loss to the Celtics notwithstanding. But this also could be the start of a small skid as the team continues to wait for its stars to return.

We’ll see which of those scenarios it looks like when these two teams tip off at 1:30 p.m. PT on Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

Notes and Updates

  • It’s hard to blame them, but the Lakers look like they’re running out of gas a bit right now. Sabreena and Christian discussed that and more on our latest podcast.
  • Looking for some positives from this stretch without LeBron and AD? In her SS&R debut, Nicole Ganglani has you covered.
  • We will update this story with updates on everyone’s statuses as they come out. Buckle up, this game could be very weird.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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