Happy New Year everyone!
Record: 14-16 (Pythagorean 14-16), 9th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 6-4
Laker Record Against Jazz this season: 1-0 (in overtime)
Offensive Rating: 100.8 (29th in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.1 (12 in league)
About the Jazz: The Lakers catch the Jazz in the second game of a back-to-back (they beat the 76ers last night) and this is the start of a home-and-home.
Whatâ€™s been holding the Jazz back this season is they have trouble scoring, shooting just 44.5% (eFG%)on the season. Their leading scorer is Mehmet Okur, who scores 20.2 points and grabs 10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes. And donâ€™t ignore Matt Harpring, who is averaging 19.8 per 40. Last time these two hooked up, rookie Deron Williams torched Smush for 20.
Utah has been playing better of late, and the key reason is their defense â€” in the last 10 their defensive rating is 101.8, much better than their season average. Andrei Kirilenko and his shot blocking ability are a key reason for the improvement (he leads the team as a +13.3 per 48 so far this season).
The Jazz will be without Carlos Boozer â€” I know, shocking. Boozer should return soon, but, Boozer coming back creates some problems â€” where do you play him, AK-47 and Okur? Okurâ€™s numbers drop off severely when he has to play the five, and you canâ€™t play Boozer there. Logic would dictate the Jazz need to move somebody.
One thing I hope to see in the next two days: My Fighting Irish trounce the Buckeyes. This should be the best of the games on Monday.
The Lakers coming in: We know Kobe is out due to the suspension (was that really a two game foul?), but then Lamar Odom sprains his ankle in practice yesterday and Cook is still slowed by the flu. Cook and Odom are expected to play.
I was going to suggest Walton should get the start, but Phil Jackson hinted in the LA Times today it could be seldom-seen Von Wafer. At the least he will get minutes. So far this season he has shown moments of amazing athleticism, followed by equally amazing bad judgment. He is shooting 25% so far this season, but trust me from seeing him in the Summer League, he is a better shooter than that. My biggest concern, he has shown almost a distain for the triangle offense and has a quick trigger, and for the Lakers to win without Kobe they need to be efficient and run the offense.
Without Kobe they need to execute, they donâ€™t have anyone to just throw the ball to bail them out latte in the shot clock.
Keyâ€™s to a Laker win: The Jazz should be tired and donâ€™t shoot well anyway, the Lakers are rested. This is a game the Lakers can win at the defensive end of the floor by shutting down the Jazz, Iâ€™d prefer not to see another game that will come down to how the team executes at the end.
Odom has done this before when Kobe has been out â€” he needs to step up and be the leader.
The Lakers are going to have to run the offense every time down (for a change) to create shots. And theyâ€™ve got to hit them, especially out on the perimeter â€” Utah plays good defense inside but can be hurt at the two and the three. Smush, Walton, Cook, George, Odom all need to shoot efficiently today. A few easy transition baskets would be nice as well.
Right now the Lakers are the eighth seed in the West, Utah the ninth, 1.5 games behind them. Itâ€™s way, way to early for must wins, but just a split of this home-and-home without Kobe would be a boost now.
A quick comment on Kobe’s suspension: I don’t think Kobe should be shocked with the penalty. When you’re yelling at the guy as you leave to get stitched up in the lockerroom, saying stuff like, “I’ll be back, Mike! I’ll be back, motherfucker!” and then you deck that guy with a forearm later in the game, you leave the league with no choice. They will never allow that image: a star player following through on a threat with violent retaliation. The whole incident highlights a flaw in the Laker roster as currently constructed: there is no enforcer. If someone like Kurt Rambis had stepped in and taken care of Miller, I think it might have been dealt with differently. But even it still ended up in a two-game suspension, it wouldn’t be Kobe serving the time.
Does anybody have an enforcer anymore? Danny Fortson? Ben Wallace? Where have all the Mo Lucas and Bill Laimbeers gone?