For, what seems like forever now, I know I’ve sounded like a broken record. The Lakers are banged up. Already down Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram against the T’Wolves on Friday, they lost Kyle Kuzma to a sprained ankle and saw their first half lead turn into a 2nd half blowout in favor of the visiting team.
The Lakers battled well in the first 24 minutes, but Minnesota tightened up defensively in the 3rd and 4th quarters, took advantage of some sloppy Lakers play by converting turnovers into buckets, and ran away with the game. The Wolves are the better team, so the final result was not unexpected, but one has to wonder what games like these might look like if the Lakers had their full roster to compete.
Who knows if we’ll get to see that before the year closes, though. Only 3 games remain on the schedule and while Luke Walton has not ruled out returns from Ingram or Ball (or Kuzma who is “day to day” with his sprained ankle), seeing them suit up again this year is by no means a given.
That is the backdrop for today’s game against the Jazz. Utah has a chance to improve their playoff seeding in the season’s closing days and you can only imagine how serious they’ll be taking today’s game. By winning out, they can climb into the top half of the bracket and secure home court advantage – something they thirst for as Salt Lake’s altitude and rowdy atmosphere have always been key advantages.
So, expect them to play hard and well today. Maybe it will matter that it’s a 3pm start time. “LA nightlife is undefeated” after all. *saracasm font*
In all seriousness, a weakened opponent and an early start time could affect the Jazz’s effort and attentiveness. I just don’t think it will matter all that much over the course of a full 48 minutes. Especially if the Lakers are down all the guys currently on the injury report. That’s just too much perimeter play, too much playmaking, too much scoring punch.
I do expect the Lakers to battle, however. They have pride and Walton has mixed the velvet glove with the iron one masterfully all year to keep them engaged and motivated. I am interested in seeing how LA’s duo of Julius Randle and Brook Lopez do against Rudy Gobert’s paint protection. If they can be efficient, that can serve as a fulcrum for their offensive attack. I also want to see if KCP can knock down shots. If those things happen, the game can be closer than expected. And if the game is close late, who knows what can happen.
I’m just not investing much belief that will be how the game plays out. Again, broken record, but the Lakers are just too banged up.
Where you can watch: 3:00pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.