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Lakers vs. Jazz Preview: Battle against the hottest team in the Western Conference

The Lakers are stumbling upon a Jazz that’s been rolling as of late, setting up a very interesting contest on Saturday.

NBA: NOV 21 Jazz at Lakers Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the four road games for the Lakers in the month of January comes Saturday against the Utah Jazz. The purple and gold look to get back in the winning column after their two-game winning streak was snapped by the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz

When: 6:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 13

Where: Delta Center

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

Thursday’s 18-point loss to the Suns was up there as one of the most embarrassing losses of the season for the Lakers. It feels like there have been many of those as of late but the way L.A. succumbed to their division rival was the type of loss that points that they badly need change and one that apparently led to Darvin Ham questioning the team’s maturity.

From the get-go, the Lakers were run off their home floor by the Suns. Devin Booker and Bradley Beal combined for 68 points, more than half of the Lakers’ final score (109). Los Angeles allowed Phoenix to cook their defense and shoot 49.5% from the field, outrebound them (46-37) by a wide margin and let them score 23 and 15 fast break and second-chance points, respectively.

The worst part about this game was that not a single Laker scored more than 20 points. Anthony Davis, who only had five rebounds for the night, was limited to 13 points while LeBron James, who had his worst game of the season, scored just 10 points. It was yet another reminder that this Lakers team relies too much on their superstars to have near-perfect games in order to win these days.

I wrote the last two paragraphs not to recap one of the worst losses in the James-Davis Era but to note that if the Lakers play like this often moving forward, then they might as well say goodbye to their playoff aspirations. They’re not going to win many games including this upcoming one against the current hottest team in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz.

The streaking Jazz

The Jazz (19-20), who are just literally one game below the Lakers in the Western Conference standings, have won eight of their last 10 games — including ones against the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks.

Ironically a team that was expected to tank and sell off their players at this upcoming trade deadline is now ranked sixth and 11th in defense and offense, respectively, over the last 10 games. They’re a completely different team compared to the one the Lakers beat by 32 when they last faced in November.

Whether their current run is a one-hit-wonder type of thing or not, the Lakers need to approach this Jazz team as seriously as possible. Utah has been averaging 123.2 points over the last 10 games as they have a balance of scoring contributions from Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Keyonte George, among others.

For the Lakers to win, the version that played the L.A. Clippers and Toronto Raptors is the one that needs to show up on Saturday. This game on the road won’t be easy, but one that’s not impossible to win, especially if L.A.’s offense gets an ample amount of contributions from both its superstars and role players. And more importantly, if the Lakers’ defense contains the Jazz’ offense instead of it being the reason why they shoot lights out.

Notes and Updates:

  • The last time these two teams faced in November, the Lakers scored 76 of their points in the paint and grabbed a total of 52 rebounds. Dominating the paint should be the Lakers’ priority for this one game especially since Utah is just a mediocre three-point shooting team. That game did, however, feature a Jazz team without Walker Kessler.
  • Utah will also be on the second night of a back-to-back for this one as they face the Raptors on Friday.
  • For the Lakers’ injury report, the team lists Anthony Davis (left ankle sprain/bone bruise) and Christian Wood (migraine) as probable. LeBron James (left peroneal tendinopathy), Cam Reddish (left knee soreness) and D’Angelo Russell (right knee contusion) are questionable and, as expected, Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) is out.
  • As for the Jazz, only their two-way players, Johny Juzang, Micah Potter and Jason Preston, are noted as unavailable due to G-League duties.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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