Record: 25-26 (24-27 Pythagorean), 9th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Lakers record against Jazz: 1-2
Offensive Rating: 102.7 (28th in league)
Defensive Rating: 106.8 (13th in league)
Best thing I watched this weekend: Airplane!, which HBO was rerunning. I hadn’t watched it in a decade and I laughed like it was new.
What, you thought I was going to say that Laker loss to Memphis? That game had me looking for distraction and relief. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
Last time these two faced off: It wasnâ€™t a fair fight. The Lakers dropped both games of a home-and-home to the Jazz on Jan. 1 and 3, but Kobe was suspended for those two games.
Why Lakers should worry anyway: In the last game between these two, Andrei Kirilenko had 14 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 7 blocks and 6 steals. That had nothing to do with Kobe being gone. Odom/Cook/Kwame are going to have to have a big game defensively against him.
About the Jazz: They start a big and dangerous front line â€” the aforementioned Kirilenko (a very good player when healthy), Mehmet Okur (who leads the Jazz scoring 20.1 per 40 minutes and is their best rebounder, grabbing 15.8% of available boards) and the competent Jarron Collins. There’s also limited minutes from Carlos Boozer. Thatâ€™s a lot of big bodies to throw at a Laker team that was thin in the frontcourt before Chris Mihm went down (he will not play tonight and likely not against Atlanta on Wednesday).
The other dangerous guy is Matt Harpring, who provides what little outside they have to go with their inside. In the last 10 games, he is shooting 56.1% (eFG%).
The starting guards for the Jazz are two guys named Milt Palacio and Devin Brown. That is where the Lakers have the advantage.
I donâ€™t want to jinx it but: Kwame Brown has played two pretty good games in a row.
Key to a Laker win: Defense.
That has been the inconsistent thing that has been the difference between winning and losing. Memphis, on the season, has a team eFG% of 48.4%. They shot 54.7% against the Lakers. Their team offensive rating coming in to Staples was 105.1 (points per 100 possessions), they had 119 against the Lakers.
Utah creates some match up challenges for the Lakers, but the reverse is true as well (Utah is better up front, the Lakers in the back court). Itâ€™s a clichÃ© but itâ€™s true â€” the team that plays better defensively will have the eighth playoff spot in the West at the end of the night.