Records: Lakers 13-2, Jazz 11-5
Offensive ratings: Lakers 116.9, Jazz 100.6
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4, Jazz 104.7
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Jazz: Deron Williams, Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Theo Ratliff
Jazz: Mehmet Okur
The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are coming off a solid win against the Bulls on Tuesday and should be well-rested for tonight’s affair, Thanksgiving food comas excluded. As been the case for much of the season so far, the Killer B’s have buoyed the Lakers, most recently led by Shannon Brown’s 21 points. Even without the injured Boozer, Chicago’s gritty style was a good test for L.A. after a couple of expected gimmes against Milwaukee, Detroit, Minnesota and Golden State.
The Jazz Coming in: The Northwest Division-leading Jazz are on the up-and-up after defeating early season titan New Orleans by a 105-87 margin on Wednesday night for their third win in a row. Utah was led by the sturdy Deron William’s 26 points and 11 dimes, but also got 40 points combined from Paul Millsap and newcomer Al Jefferson. Speaking of Jefferson, Carlos Boozer’s de facto replacement at the center-forward spot has pretty much picked up where his predecessor left off, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds on the season. Overall, the Jazz are still a bit hard to read at this point — they had some great come-from-behind wins a few weeks ago and have had a tough opening schedule, yet the jury is still out on where they’ll ultimately fall in the Western Conference pecking order. Either way, any game against a Jerry Sloan-led squad at Energy Solutions Arena is bound to prove challenging.
Blogs: Follow Jazz news out of Salt Lake City on Salt City Hoops.
Keys to game:
You could have written this 15 years ago and it still would have been true — the Lakers need to get out to a fast start to quickly take Utah’s rowdy crowd out of the game. As much as you think that noise couldn’t possibly bother a back-to-back championship team, especially one that has actually showed they’re more than capable of beating the Jazz on their home floor in recent playoff runs, Utah’s crowd is a factor that must never be ignored.
Another key to the game we would have been discussing 15 years ago is how to manage Utah’s production from the one spot. The personnel has changed from the Stockton era, but Deron Williams’ ascension to elite status continues to provide the Lakers with all kinds of matchup dilemmas. Williams ran a potent pick-and-roll with Boozer for several seasons and even though, Jefferson doesn’t have the same range, the duo has shown increasingly more chemistry in recent games. Williams has particularly killed the Lakers in the past with his ability to drive deep into the lane, so the onus will be on Gasol and Odom to provide some form of resistance down low.
Paul Millsap’s continuing emergence is one of the main reasons that Utah has been able to jump out to a strong 11-5 start despite losing some key pieces in the offseason. There was a lot of talk of whether or not the undersized four would be able to step up once Boozer eventually departed and he’s answered resoundingly through 16 games with a career-high average of 20 points, plus nine boards. Millsap is a hustler and always seems to be near any loose ball, so Odom, Artest and Barnes will need to make sure they have active hands tonight.
Statistically speaking, the Jazz, are a middle-of-the-road defensive team. Williams is solid from the one, Millsap can’t be overlooked despite being undersized in many matchups and Kirilenko remains one of the league’s bigger defensive pests. Where L.A. can really take advantage of Utah is with its depth — something the Jazz seemingly just don’t have the personnel to match at this point. C.J. Miles is averaging 11 on the year off Utah’s pine, but the drop-off is steep from there with offensive mainstay Okur out.
Where you can watch: KCAL at 6 p.m. or ESPN Radio 710 AM