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Lakers vs. Jazz Preview: Anthony Davis meets Rudy Gobert again

It’s no secret that Anthony Davis loves to play against Rudy Gobert and dominate those matchups while he’s at it.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images

The last time Anthony Davis went up against Rudy Gobert was on Aug 3, 2020, when he put up 42 points and 12 rebounds. Since then, Davis has missed the past four meetings between the Lakers and Utah Jazz, mainly because of multiple serious injuries that have kept him out of the basketball court.

Wednesday’s game will be a different story for AD, who now has championship bragging rights over Gobert. However this time, Davis (who averages 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks against Gobert) now actually finds himself in a similar spot as his fellow annual Defensive Player of the year candidate this season — as the team’s defensive anchor in charge of covering up for all his teammates’ mistakes.

Because unlike the past two seasons, Davis’s job on defense is so much harder than it has been. Gone are the days where the Lakers can rely on their prolific point-of-attack defense, chasers and wing stoppers who they all exchanged for in the Russell Westbrook trade and when they decided to acquire more offense in the off season. This clip below perfectly sums up how much the Lakers rely on AD on defense this season:

Like what Gobert has been accustomed to for years now, Davis needs to clean up the Lakers’ perimeter defensive mistakes when he’s on the floor, especially when teams like the Warriors target it. To be fair, Golden State’ efficient ball movement does this to almost all defenses in the league but it was clear as day that the Lakers couldn’t keep up for the most part.

It didn’t help that Los Angeles also lost the rebounding battle (50-48) in Saturday’s game against a team that was so much smaller than them. The purple and gold desperately needed to make up for this with their offensive production, which they barely received from Davis and LeBron James in the fourth quarter. While Davis was phenomenal on the defensive end, he was a shell of himself on offense.

Despite being guarded by a 6-foot-7 Jonathan Kuminga and 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney, AD only attempted 13 shots at the rim and scored just 16 points. While he got to the free throw line 10 times, AD missed four of those including a crucial one that would’ve tied the game in the fourth quarter. The credit goes to Steve Kerr and the Warriors for making life hard for Davis inside the paint.

That’s why moving forward, the goal for Davis is to hopefully figure out how to get to the rim more especially if his shooting struggles continue. Whether that’s through schemes like the Spain-pick-and-roll, his post moves or through lobs, AD needs to find a way to increase his offensive production while being the team’s overly-relied on defensive anchor.

Maybe winning a game against someone who practically has the same job description as him will help Davis get back on track. After all, it’s no secret that Davis loves to play against Gobert and dominate those matchups while he’s at it.

Notes and Updates

  • To give an idea on how important Gobert is for the Jazz, Utah once went 1-4 without him last January and were ranked 30th in defensive rating. Gobert is currently ranked second in the league’s Defensive Player ladder, averaging career-high 14.9 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks.
  • Since their struggles last January, the Jazz have picked it up and are currently on a six game winning streak. They unfortunately lost Joe Ingles to an ACL injury early this month (who they ended up trading to the Portland Trail Blazers) but have remained in the fourth seed of the Western Conference.
  • On the Lakers side of things, the team listed Carmelo Anthony (right hamstring strain), Avery Bradley (right knee effusion), Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) as out for tomorrow’s game.
  • Meanwhile, LeBron James (left knee soreness/effusion) is questionable and Anthony Davis (right wrist soreness) is probable.
  • South Bay Lakers representatives Sekou Doumbouya and Mason Jones (two-way contracts) will also be in G-League duty.
  • Frank Vogel also mentioned on Tuesday’s practice (their 19th practice of the season) that the message to the team has been to head into the All-Star break in a good note. Hopefully the Lakers can do this by building winning momentum and beating the Jazz.

The Lakers’ last game before the All-Star break will tip-off by 7 pm P.T. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

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