Records: Lakers 18-3 (1st in West) Jazz 13-9 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.7 (11th in league) Jazz 109.9 (6th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.1 (1st in league) Jazz 107.3 (17th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Mathews, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur
Since we just played them two days ago, this will be short and sweet today.
Yes, Kobe is going to play: Of course he is, he’s Kobe. If his hand needed to be amputated there was a 50% chance he’d suit up. He went through the full shoot around in Utah this morning and is ready to go.
That said, he admitted after the game last night that today would be the worst of it, so we’ll have to watch and see how it effects his game. (If it’s anything like last night we can expect some lobs that end up as highlights on LetShannonDunk.com.)
The other thing to note is that Kobe seemed subdued after the game last night. Kobe accepts challenges head on like few other athletes ever have, but you have to expect a little frustration with another fluky finger injury to his shooting hand. The thing is, by the time of tip off tonight, he will have put that frustration behind him like few other athletes can.
Blogs and links: Check out Salt City Hoops.
Keys to game: This is one of those games that when you look at the schedule before the season and check it as a likely loss: back-to-back games, flying at night then playing the next day against a good team and at altitude. Throw in that the Jazz are a proud team that was embarrassed by the fourth quarter of the Wednesday meeting and you can expect they will be playing with fire. (By the way, if this is close or the Lakers lose, that means nothing about how well they are playing or what would happen in the playoffs, these teams see each other too often for one December game to be a statement.)
What the Lakers did in the fourth quarter of that game on Wednesday was play good pressure defense on he perimeter, with Bynum behind them to protect the rim, and that took the Jazz out of their preferred rhythm. The shots they got were not always the ones they wanted (and when they got good shots they missed them). There were three 24 second clock violations.
The Lakers can do that again, the question is will they have the focus to do it again. What can be missing in back-to-back games is the energy, the desire to play that kind of defense again. We shall see.
Defense will be the key, the Lakers should be able to score, the Jazz remain a struggling defensive team. That said, they should expect a physical game and to not get calls — something they should get used to with the road games.
The Jazz may also be deeper than we saw a few days ago — Price will be playing tonight, Korver is a game time decision.
Where you can watch: 6 pm start at nuclear waste arena, you can choose between Channel 9 or 710 ESPN radio.