Troy Pierce | January 11th, 2019
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers will be traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah to take on the Jazz in what should be an exciting matchup. Currently, the eight teams holding playoff spots in the West are separated by only 5.5 games and a win for either team could play a big role in the Western Conference playoff race. The Lakers and Jazz hold the 8th and 9th playoff spots in the conference and are only separated by two games.
The squads have only faced off once this season but that was way back in November. The previous matchup saw Los Angeles escape with a 90-83 victory by way of great team defense which lead to a horrendous shooting night by the Jazz; Utah shot 38.8% from the field and 17.4% from the 3-point line in their previous matchup. Los Angeles was also able to out-rebound Utah 47-41, finishing +6 on the night.
Lakers Keys to the Game
Firstly, Los Angeles should look to focus on their rebounding. Utah is one of the best rebounding teams in the league, in large part because of the work that Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors around the basket. JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler will have to play with a lot of energy if they hope to keep Gobert and Favors off the boards. Secondly, the Lakers should look to play stifling defense. If Los Angeles can keep the Jazz shooters uncomfortable and force Utah to turn the ball over then the Lakers could turn this game into a track meet. Thirdly, if Los Angeles can get out on the break early and often Utah will have their hands full.
Jazz Keys to the Game
Utah will first need to take care of the ball. Limiting their turnovers will help keep Los Angeles from pushing the pace and getting easy buckets on the fast break; the Lakers are second in the league in fast break points (20.1). Utah will also need to focus on their rebounding and rim protection. Gobert will likely be tasked with the heavy lifting in those areas and will be fighting with McGee and Chandler on the boards.
For the Lakers, LeBron James is still out after being evaluated on January 10th. James will be re-evaluated in one week. James suffered a groin injury on December 25, 2018.
For Utah, Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefolosha are both out with hamstring injuries and will be re-evaluated in one week.
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