The Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) hit the road today, visiting the Utah Jazz (2-3) in a Battle Royale for 9th place in the Western Conference. Both teams are coming off tough losses, the Lakers in a close contest with the Raptors and the Jazz with a dispiriting loss to the Suns. This was right after Earl Watson was fired, so presumably they lost to a team with Tyson Chandler as a player-coach.
Utah entered this season with high hopes, having won 51 games last season and making it to the second round of the playoffs. Then Gordon Hayward left for the Celtics and George Hill moved to the Kings, and suddenly we have no idea what to expect out of this team. All we can definitively say about the Jazz is they aren’t having fun at home after 10 pm.
What we do know is defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert is still patrolling the paint as one of the best defensive centers in the league. The Lakers have what I can only describe as a complicated relationship with driving to the basket and that will not be improved by the presence of the Gobert. We’ll need a greater effort by Ingram to hit wings as he’s driving.
The addition of Ricky Rubio to the Jazz does help their ball movement, particularly in the halfcourt sets. That said he has done nothing to help their three point shooting. In this case, the Jazz come into the game shooting 31.3% from beyond the arc.
We too struggled from three last night:
The Lakers are shooting 28.7% from 3-point range this season.
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) October 28, 2017
Hopefully the boys will let them fly with greater success tonight. Look for Kyle Kuzma to fire away in front of a friendly Utah crowd. Against all odds, Jordan Clarkson has been hitting 39% from three on 4.6 attempts a game. While nothing scares me more than Clarkson’s 10th dribble, we should look to get him the ball if the offense goes cold.
This game makes three teams in a row the Lakers will have faced that shoot below average from distance. Not surprisingly this has corresponded with their most recent improvements in defense. For the Lakers, part of that defense has come from Julius Randle (18/5/3) who has been playing grown man basketball the last two games.
We’ll see how the coaching staff responds to Randle’s dominant play, preferably more minutes with our small ball lineup also featuring Kuzma at power forward. As always this year we can never just expect to win, but this team is showing some fight. Lonzo tends to respond aggressively to loses and let’s hope this team takes on some of that personality.