Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Jazz

Darius Soriano —  January 3, 2014

The Lakers coming in: Since winning back to back games against the Grizzlies and the T’Wolves on December 17th and 20th, the Lakers haven’t won a contest, going 0-6 with losses to the Bucks, 76ers and the Jazz. If you’re scoring at home, that’s losses to 3 of the teams with the worst records in the league. In other words, the Lakers may just be the worst team in the league if taking a snapshot of the league at this particular moment.

Considering the talent on the floor, though, this should not be a surprise. We don’t have to rehash the injury woes of this team now, but tonight they’ll start Kendall Marshall at point guard and he wasn’t even on the team two weeks ago. They’ll also start Robert Sacre (in for Shawne Williams) next to Pau Gasol to go with Jodie Meeks and Nick Young. This isn’t a roster with enough talent to win most nights and regardless of what critiques you have about the coach (some of which are relevant, others not as much) or the front office (same deal) this is what the team is stuck with. There’s not magic elixir sitting on the street in terms of an upgrade at the head coaching spot or in terms of a point guard who can come in and direct this team to more victories.

Down the line, this may change. But as of now, this is who the Lakers are. They’re a team starting their 18th different starting lineup and their 6th different point guard (Nash, Blake, Farmar, Kobe, Henry, and now Marshall) on the season. They have few options on an injury riddled roster and a coach simply trying to get his guys to play hard through the mire of too many consecutive losses.

The Jazz coming in: Utah may have one of the lesser records in the league, but they’ve won four of their last six and are getting quality play from multiple players. Rookie Trey Burke looks like a rookie of the year candidate while Gordan Hayward continues to be one of the more skilled wings in the league. Add big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who can both be physical presences down low and Alec Burks who brings some good athleticism and skill on the wing and this is a team with some solid young talent who is capable of putting together solid enough play on both sides of the ball to win some games. They’re still not a very good team, but truth be told, they’re better than the Lakers are right now. That may not be saying much, but in terms of tonight’s match up it does mean something.

Keys to the game: Forget the opponent tonight and let’s just focus on what the Lakers have been doing lately and need to do better moving forward.

Defensively, the Lakers have started to switch screens more and it’s led to countless breakdowns on that end of the floor. Too often guards end up isolated on big men in the post and bigs end up guarding smalls on the perimeter. Wings are switching with each other, but are a beat slow in how they execute this. It translates to Lakers being at a disadvantage all over the floor, giving up dribble penetration which then breaks down the interior defense to the point that they are either surrendering easy baskets at the rim or offensive rebounds when the bigs do rotate to help on penetration. Until the Lakers can figure out how to avoid switching as often as they have been and get back to playing better man to man defense and avoid compromising their defensive interior, they will struggle to get the stops they need to stay in games.

And they desperately need those stops because their offense is unable to get on track with all their limitations at guard. This is an scheme that depends on dribble penetration and scoring from the point guard position to set up the flow of their offense. With all the point guards out, the Lakers simply don’t have the threat at the point to drive their offense. Instead they’ve become over-reliant on their wings to create their own offense (namely Nick Young) and too many of those possessions devolve into isolations where Young is forced into creating a difficult shot for himself or becoming a playmaker for one of his teammates. This is where the team could use Gasol to be more of a pillar on offense, but with his struggles he’s not been able to establish himself as a hub of reliable offense for this team.

Against the Jazz, the Lakers must find ways to better execute, but I’d be lying if I said that there is an easy way to make these changes. What the Lakers need is to get back to the ball movement they showed on offense and the effort they gave on defense they had to start the year, but with so many players hurt this won’t be easy. If all this is a bit depressing, welcome to this version of your Los Angeles Lakers. This was a team built on the idea that better injury luck and the coming together of a team would prove to be enough to compete in a loaded West. What we’ve found, though, is injury luck as bad or worse than last season and a depleted roster that is starting to look more resigned to its fate than one who can dig their way out of this hole. If that’s to change, a better effort against the Jazz is a good place to start. Let’s see if they have it in them.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

 

Darius Soriano

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41 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Jazz

  1. For Warren!!! Though his streak ended on his previous first posts. :( But hey, this is 2014 a change is a comin’.

    Why start Sacre, has he turned into a stretch four? Why not give Kelly a start at the four, since he obviously disdains using Hill in the starting position.

  2. Parrothead Phil January 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Trying to make sense of D’Antoni’s roster decisions reminds of the old Bud Dry commercials…Why ask why?
    I’ve never been able to discern any rhyme or reason as to how players go from starting to DNP-CD and then back to starting again without any explanation. “It’s mind bottling” to quote Will Ferrell.

  3. I have decided to not ask why this year. Have to assume MD knows more then me and he is getting paid to make the decisions . Might be also FO decisions we are not not aware of .

    Looking forward to seeing Marshell start.

  4. Love your directness pertaining to the Lakers current state of affairs Darius. Nothing like calling a spade a spade. Let’s see who steps up tonight. Go Lakers. And if anyone is thinking about Little Stevie Nash, here’s the latest:
    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/10238875/steve-nash-los-angeles-lakers-aiming-early-february-return

  5. Dave McMenamin states in his latest ESPN write up, that 2013 was the worst calendar year in history for the Lakers franchise (http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/10232428/four-major-questions-facing-los-angeles-lakers-2014) . It’s the worse I recall since I became in fan in ’65.

    Anyone disagreed?

  6. darius: it’s got to be a struggle and painful to come up with something positive to say about the lakers for tonite’s game versus the utah jazz. i mean, if low expectations were a positive; we’d we high fiving, low fiving and sideway fiving if there is such a thing. hopefully, when we start getting back some healthy bodies (and not lose any along the way) in a few weeks, we’ll start to look like the .500 team we earlier were and not closer to the .250 team we’ve recently aspired to.

    keeping as many fingers and toes crossed for the time being.

    Go lakers

  7. Anyone disagreed?

    1965 was before my time, but to me 1991 will always be the worst. But 2013 was terrible, start to finish.

  8. “It’s mind bottling” HAHAHA

    The Jazz would be the perfect team for this coach to use Pau and Kaman together, to beat the Jazz up inside. Sort of tenderize them for Hill, Kelly and Sacre off the bench. Recently the Lakers starts have been disconcerting, getting down by double digits early in the first quarter.

    Nick Young has a shot at being the 6th man of the year, why not let him go for that award, it would be the one bright spot in the Lakers season, and might be the impetus for Young remaining with the team.

  9. It’s the worst for me Sid because I went out on a limb and predicted 47 wins and a 7th spot. Makes it worse that some of the guys I argued with a former Laker players my company does business with.

    Hate looked stupid but I guess I have to settle for the new humble me this year.

  10. 1991: The Announcement
    2011: The Retirement of Phil Jackson + The VETO (rr – you gotta add 2011 to your list)
    2012: The Phil Jackson Debacle (not as bad as 91 + 11 but on the list due to self-infliction)
    2013: Well it was what it was. (KB injury of course keeping the symmetry of the late year disaster)

    So we are on quite a roll.

  11. Ko,

    Like I always say: predictions are overrated. We are all going to be wrong a lot if we make enough of them.

  12. I vote for 1991 for the sole reason that we had such lofty expectations. Just came off of a Finals appearance where the injury bug hits and we get creamed. Everyone knows that Magic Johnson is not gonna let that stand…then boom! That was one of my saddest moments as a human being -much less a Lakers fan.

    In 2011 the writing was on the wall that the window was closing with this group. Last year was pretty tough as well because, again, the goals were so high at the beginning of the year. Nash, Dwight, and Kobe on the same team and then throw in Pau!? Injury after injury after injury and then the unthinkable. Kobe goes down.

    This year we all had fairly low expectations. I mean, the highest goal was to squeak into the playoffs as a 8th seed. Sad times.

  13. Ko: You need to be commended on two accounts. First – you are fessing up to you prediction. Second – you are not making excuses. You could say injuries for example. Last year I said we had the best team ( I am fessing up), and of course we did – I just didn’t know we were going to make that phone call – well – I guess I just don’t have the no excuses part mastered yet : )
    2011: No takers on 2011? I thought I would have a poster of Jim Buss on my wall if not for the VETO. We would be working on a 3 – Peat right now ! Where are all the front office fans when I need them : )

  14. Robert–I agree that the Announcement and the VETO are the two worst events in terms of far-reaching consequences for the franchise (in my lifetime anyway), although D12 drama+Kobe’s achilles of 2013 is very close and still exceeds the Phil drama of 2012 if you ask me….

  15. Boy the defense looks good. Impressed with Marshell.

  16. Sweet Pau. Real Sweet.

  17. Nice first quarter by the Lakers, Pau and Marshall off to a good start tonight.

  18. rr and Robert: 1991 Magic’s announcement devastated me. I continued watching the Lakers, but it didn’t feel right cheering for the team for years. Then when the Achilles heel took Kobe down I thought, “Oh no, not another Legend deprived of finishing his career on his own terms.”

    Looks like the Lakers have shaken off their lethargy and/or feeling sorry for themselves and are once again playing like, ‘it’s them against the world.’

    That zone will only work for so long an NBA team eventually adjusts to the zone. So I hope they have something else to throw at the Jazz on defense.

    That defensive steal and score by Johnson is exactly why you play him. Even though he is not a polished offensive player, yet.

    Still when you live by three you will die by that same three. The Lakers don’t have anything between the three and post plays with a sprinkling of dribble drives.

  19. Chris Paul out a month.

  20. Point guard position must be cursed in Los Angeles this season, Chris Paul out 3-5 weeks.

  21. Don’t look now guys but Kendall Marshall might just get a double double in this game along with Pau. Anyway, carry on…….

  22. Dr.’s Gasol and little brother have been at the Lakers games, and may explain why Gasol is looking healthier. Nothing like having a Dr. in the family to aid you when you’re ailing.

    Pau has looked engaged and committed to getting on the block and putting in work in the past few games.

    I’ve been calling for Marshall and Kelly, so far I’ve liked what they bring to the team. Marshall and Kelly are not the swiftest players on the floor but both have high basketball IQ’s which offsets their lack of athleticism.

    So who made the call to pick up Marshall, Kupchak, Buss or the coach? So far, he looks like an intriguing point guard. Good call! I still like Seth Curry and would like to see what he could do in this offense.

  23. melcountscounts January 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    This game could still go south, but what a joy to watch a pass-first point guard, truly old school.

  24. Wow Marsh having best game as PG this year.

  25. Marshall is looking like a black Steve Nash, completely impressed.

  26. The Lakers will get through this like they always have. If you want to see a great video with a great man, I had the opportunity to interview longtime Assistant Coach and Scout for the Lakers Coach Bill Bertka. What an amazing man. We talked about his long career with the Lakers. Check it out: http://www.kenboxerlive.com

  27. Good foul Kelly!!!! No layups, maybe he’s the muscle the Lakers need on the team (I say with tongue in cheek). Give Kelly playing time, please, the kid can play. He needs to get his NBA defensive legs but he shows promise.

    Nick Young and Williams are better suited coming in off the bench, both look shell shocked in the starting lineup. We haven’t seen a smile and head nod going down the floor after a score by Nick tonight.

  28. Marsh is a plus 18 tonight.
    Pau a plus 20.

  29. Young really killing me out there.

  30. There is time to blow this game. Hope not is this 2009 again with Pau 23-15-7 line?We need more of that.Close game between teams at the same talent level. We aint blowing teams out.

  31. Young and Gasol with two huge baskets to give the Lakers a little breathing room.

  32. Lakers have this game, they’re just trying to keep it exciting.

    Meeks is annoying me by sagging into the paint, the opposing team passes the ball to his man everytime for wide open threes.

  33. He’s been abused and deservedly so (lately anyway)–but credit where credit is due–Pau is bringing it tonight-even at the defensive end….

  34. Feel like I am watching a finals game. Been awhile since a win and I really rooting.

  35. Kendall Marshall’s three pointer seals this win.

  36. OMG Marshall!!!!!! From like 28 feet

  37. And then Young put an ! Point on the win lol

  38. Wow Kendall Marshall, blown away by him tonight and the best game Pau had in the last 3 years.

  39. Pau Gasol just increased his trade value. Hope Dan Gilbert is watching? Time to sell high and get some picks for gasol.

  40. After the last week, I will happily take that win. Nice effort.

  41. Well. We needed that.

    * Gasol: 23 pts.(10-17 shooting), 17 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 blocked shots;
    * Marshall: 20 pts. (8-12 shooting, 2-3 from 3-pt. range), 6 rebounds, 15 assists and only one TO in 40:36;
    * Wes Johnson: 11 pts. (5-5 shooting), 2 steals, 1 block, great D;
    * Jodie Meeks: 18 pts.;
    * Nick Young: 16 pts.; and
    * Shawne Williams: 10 pts.

    Some interesting stats: Kendall Marshall’s performance marked the first time in 10 years that a Lakers Point Guard had at least 15 pts. and 15 assists in one game since Gary Payton did it in January 2004.

    Also, in the last Utah game (which was not that long ago), Jordan Hill had 18 pts. and 13 rebounds and Chris Kaman had 19 and 12. Tonight Hill had 2 pts. and 5 rebounds in only 10:43 (as opposed to the 30 minutes that he played in Utah) and Kaman was a DNP-CD. Baffling.

    But, hey…it’s a win. Now, can Marshall do it again? Or can he at least keep providing a sense of flow to the offense? When he left the game, the 2nd unit clearly missed having a point guard. Amazingly, this team now seems to need him. I’ll be very interested in seeing what happens Sunday against Denver.

    It’s good to have a win again. Isn’t it?