Jazz: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert
Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, LeBron James, Dwight Howard
Jazz: Elijah Hughes; Out due to Health & Safety Protocols: Hassan Whiteside; Jared Butler
Lakers: LeBron James (probable); Carmelo Anthony (questionable); Dwight Howard (probable); Anthony Davis (out); Kendrick Nunn (out)
The Lakers truly are at a crossroads and until they actually show us they’re going to go down the path where they decide they’re going to play hard and the right way each night, I have to assume they’re going to continue to go down the wrong path. Yes, LeBron James tweeted an apology to Lakers fans with a promise the team will be better. That’s great. Honestly, no snark. But, saying it and doing it are two different things. And while I trust Bron to be able to follow up on whatever he says, the rest of this group does not have that same equity built up to inspire trust they’ll do the same.
So, the Lakers play the Jazz tonight. Utah is a high execution team that tests your defensive commitment and resolve on almost every possession. They’ll put you in the blender and trust that they’ll get a good shot eventually. And, most possessions, they do. The Lakers, then, aren’t really going to stop this team. They’re just not. Their only hope, then, is to keep up with them by scoring a ton and, well, I’m not sure they can.
It would help if Carmelo could play, but until we get an update on him, I’m not sure if that’s the case. It would also help if the Lakers could hit their 3’s, but that’s not been happening of late either. Of course, if the team can get some stops and can spread the Jazz out and make them defend more of the court while drawing Rudy away from the rim, there is a formula. But that likely means playing LeBron even more Center and doing so when Rudy is in the game and it would require Melo to play too, because if Rudy gets to defend Stanley Johnson, you’re not going to achieve the spacing you want even by playing smaller.
Which brings me back to my pessimism about this specific game. The Lakers are in a bad spot tonight. They just are. My only hope, then, is that they compete hard and show the resolve that is implied in LeBron’s tweet. Show me that you care. Or, you know, get your ass kicked. It’s up to you.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on NBA TV and Spectrum SportsNet.