Records: Lakers 1-1; Jazz 2-1
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.7; Jazz 112.4
Defensive ratings: Lakers 98.3; Jazz 102.5
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Kwame Brown is a game time decision due to a respiratory infection (if not him, Bynum)
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronny Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur.
Lakers Notes: The Lakers come in off their best performance in a long time, a decimation of the Phoenix Suns. For one game everything looked good â€” but there are still some things that are of issue.
The Lakers are turning the ball over 16 times per game â€” better than the preseason but still too much. Brian Cook has been a defensive statue in limited minutes. And while the Lakers have done much better on the pick-and-roll, there are still some lapses (particularly from Kwame, whose mind seemed to drift against the Suns to some ASU co-ed in the front row, or something). If things continue as they are, I wouldnâ€™t be shocked if Bynum (who has played well) steals the starting job, but for now Iâ€™d just like to see him get more minutes.
The Jazz Coming In: For the second game in a row, the Lakers catch a team in the second game of a back-to-back. The Jazz ran past Golden State last night 133-110, with their starters playing deep into the game due to a second half Warrior run. Both of the Jazz wins this young season have come at the expense of the Warriors (which in part explains the Jazzâ€™s gaudy offensive numbers so far, Golden State isnâ€™t playing much D).
As you might expect, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams have been leading the way for the Jazz so far, both averaging 24 points per game (and Boozer is adding 14 boards). Last night the Warriors were quick to double Boozer and other Jazz players stepped up (AK-47 was 6 of 10, Brewer was 8 of 14 with two threes). Also of note, the Jazz got good play off the bench last night from backup PG Jason Hart (who has taken Fisherâ€™s role and will be a good test for Farmar) and Matt Harpring.
In the previous game, the Rockets handed the Jazz a loss behind a big night from Tracy McGrady. The Jazz did a terrible job defending the pick-and-roll in that game, particularly their bigs, who allowed McGrady way too many easy trips to the hoop coming off the screen. If they play like that again, expect a big night from Kobe (although, to be fair, I donâ€™t expect that the Jazz will stay in a defensive funk for a while, Sloan will not let that happen).
Note That Would Interest Only Peter King: The thing Iâ€™m most looking forward to watching tonight is the start of The Amazing Race. But this year I finally have a HD TV, and this show isnâ€™t shot that way. I was really looking forward to seeing the exotic locals in high def.
Keys To The Game: Really great matchups to watch tonight â€” Fisher vs. Williams, Boozer vs. Turiaf, Brewer trying to cover Kobe. This game likely will be won by the team that controls the paint â€” which should be fun, with two teams who have big and deep front lines. Also, after the Houston game, the Lakers should run the pick and roll with Kobe a fair amount.
One defensive key will be Walton on AK-47 â€” he canâ€™t let the Russian play like he did this summer. Also, as it is a back-to-back for the Jazz, the Lakers need to push the pace, wear out the Jazz starters and get into the bench. If the Jazz can keep it a defensive minded, half-court game, they may have the upper hand.
Thoughts/Prediction: After that last game, can you really pick against the Lakers? This should be an interesting one, I donâ€™t have a great feel for it, but Iâ€™ll say the Lakers pull away in the fourth and win 97-90.
Where you can watch my prediction go up in flames: Game time is 6:30 p.m. (Pacific). No national broadcast tonight, just Fox Sports Net (in HD) in Los Angeles, plus those with League Pass (which a lot of cable companies are giving a free glimpse of right now, so give it a shot).