If you were going to play one team when youâ€™re leading scorer will be watching the game with his ankle elevated and iced, the worst defensive team in the league would be your top choice.
Welcome to Los Angeles, Utah Jazz. Glad to see you.
The Jazz give it up so easily you’d think they worked for Heidi Fleiss. Itâ€™s the kind of confidence-boosting game the Lakers need before Minnesota and others come to town.
Tonight we also get a close look at the on the trading block point guard Carlos Arroyo. He got a big contract last off season and was considered the point guard of the future in Salt Lake, now he sits in coach Sloanâ€™s dog house. If the Lakers do make a trade â€” and I think itâ€™s still better than even money that they donâ€™t â€” this may be the most likely option.
Utahâ€™s defensive efficiency this season is dead last in the league â€” they are giving up 107.4 points per 100 possessions (the Lakers are 22nd at 103.6). Teams shoot well against them (49.5% eFG%) and get to the free throw line 33.3 times per game against them, more than any other squad in the league.
In fact, the only team that seems to have struggled scoring against Utah was the Lakers, but I think we can throw out the last game between these two â€” the second game of the season, when the Lakersâ€™ eFG% was 33%. To quote Chick, â€œThe Lakers couldnâ€™t throw a pea in the oceanâ€ that night. I doubt that sad an offensive performance will be repeated, plus Andrei Kirilenko blocked eight shots in that game, and heâ€™s on the IR right now.
The Jazz miss Kirilenko badly â€” he was their most valuable player by far.
That said, the two guys who burned the Lakers last game will be the two starting forwards for the Jazz tonight â€” Carlos Boozer at the four and Matt Harpring at the three. Boozer hit 10 of 13 shots that game, Harpring hit 9 of 11 and was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc. This means that Lamar and Caron not only need to pick up the offensive production tonight, they need to play big on the defensive end as well.
The Lakers should be able to score from just about any position on the floor (the only place Utahâ€™s oPER is below the league average is center). It will be interesting to see what kind of defensive adjustments Utah makes to playing the Lakers after the Golden State game.
Even without Kobe, this is a game the Lakers can win if they put in the effort on defense and they take care of the ball â€” the Lakers shoot better than Utah, they just canâ€™t have a bunch of empty possessions.
Right now the Lakers are 1-0 with Kobe on the IR (2-0 if you count games they had to win without him). If they can stay above .500 with him on the bench, it will be a huge boost for the squad. Plus, donâ€™t we all love the idea of the Lakers finally winning three in a row with Kobe just watching?