The Lakers won a roller coaster of a game vs. the Jazz on Saturday afternoon, after letting a double digit lead slip, then tying the game to force overtime, then dominating the extra frame. The game saw the Jazz rest players into being a more evenly matched game that saw the Lakers be closer to full strength with both Drummond and Keef returning, but still seeing AD and Bron sidelined.
The latter will be true again tonight when these teams square off again as Bron is still weeks away and AD not likely to play until later this week, but the Jazz should get some of their rested players back. Gobert and Conley should both suit up and Favors is questionable. Mitchell remains out. Regardless, the Jazz should still be well positioned to win this game with their big man depth restored to anchor their interior defense and provide the roll gravity that helps their ball movement and shooting based offense thrive.
If there’s a matchup to watch this game it’s going to be Drummond vs. Gobert and how well the former can score and rebound against a player of Rudy’s quality. Drummond’s interior based scoring attack will be challenged severely vs. a defender the caliber of Gobert and I’ll be very interested to see if Gasol ends up making an appearance or not in order to help the Lakers attack by spacing the floor via his shooting and perimeter passing skill. If Marc does not play, Drummond will have to find ways to be effective threatening the paint vs. a player who’s made an entire career out of stopping players who play his exact style.
Gobert’s presence will also surely effect Dennis Schröder, though I’ll be interested to see this particular chess match play out. Dennis’ want to get all the way to the rim will no doubt be impacted, but his ability to shoot the mid-range jumper vs. drop coverage could serve as an interesting antidote to Rudy’s paint focused mindset.
The combination of going under screens and dropping way back could allow Dennis the type of walk-in 15-footers that he can hit at a high rate, which could then trigger him being played higher at the point of attack by pulling the big out of the drop somewhat. If that does happen, more driving lanes open up, particularly the type that could lead to kick out passes for open jumpers. We’re several progressions into play reads here, but there is, potentially, a lot of meat on this bone when thinking about how the Dennis/Gobert battle could go.
Speaking of Dennis, his defense against Conley will also be a major factor in this game. If he can, along with his big man partner in the P&R, effectively keep Conley out of the paint enough to stifle the Jazz’s lob game, the Lakers perimeter rotations to Jazz shooters become the key focal point of the defense. Drummond’s own ability in the drop will be key here and he’ll need to be sharp in how he contains the dribble while not letting Rudy get behind him for easy lobs. If that duo cannot execute here, though, Rudy will feast on easy baskets and then draw the type of help from wings that fuels the Jazz 3-point shooting via their excellent passing and the reads built into their sets.
If there’s a fear from the Lakers side it’s that they get too caught up in trying to do everything at once at end up doing nothing well enough to generate stops. The level of attentiveness and quick decision making to execute and choose correctly on where to be and how to get there will be high this game. If the Lakers falter, things could get ugly quickly — particularly if the Jazz shoot well.
If there’s a wildcard here it’s the Lakers own shooting. We say this every game, but if this is a night where the Lakers go (something like) 15-33 from deep, they can generate enough points to keep this game interesting. If they can combine that type of shooting with high level defense that forces turnovers, they could even steal another W. The margin for error is very slim here, of course. The Jazz have the best record in the league for a reason. But, with Mitchell still out and if just a few things break the Lakers way, this could be interesting down the stretch.
Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.