Depending what type of Laker fan you are, this game can be either considered a race to the lottery, or a game of redeeming hope. Nash was listed as probable for tonight’s game, which would take away the Lakers’ medical exception for the year. Still, the past couple of games, when Nash got minutes, he looked like himself out there. The jumpshot was going. The passing was there. His signature play was all over the offensive end.
Utah provides a different type of challenge. While the Lakers have plenty of point guards, some still fighting through injuries, Utah has players in the paint that give the Lakers trouble. The Lakers best scorers are out; Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and Nick Young. Each of them are capable for explosive scoring outputs, and while Bryant wasn’t completely himself this season, he’s still a dangerous threat, regardless of his condition.
Utah runs their offense through Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Kanter is a developing center with a physical, power game depending on fundamental post moves. Favors is a developing paint player reliant on his athleticism around the hoop. Both are highly capable rebounders, able to finisher through contact with authority.
Trey Burke and Alex Burks provide a backcourt with not only scoring firepower, but the ability to create plays through pick and roll situations and a variety of shots. Both are underrated athletes and can put the Laker defense on their heels in transition.
Mike D’Antoni has compensated with a three-guard lineup with Nash, Blake, and Kendall Marshall. While this adds multiple playmakers on the floor and ensures offensive ball-movement and better shot selection, the Lakers are due to give up rebounds from size alone. Kendall Marshall now leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage with over one make a game at 49.4%. When the three guard lineup is out, he essentially players small forward within the offense and spots up at the corner. As long as it’s a shot taken in rhythm and 26′ away from the basket, he’ll hit half the time.
The Lakers need to maximize efficiency with their possessions if they’re not able to compete on the backboard. Team defense and rotations are of utmost importance in regards to forcing turnovers. This should keep the amount of possessions between both teams nearly equal. With three point guards on the floor, ball-handling becomes a premium and the team is better able to take care of the basketball. This is what helped tremendously against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they were able to limit the Cavs opportunities in transitions while hitting timely 3-point shots.
Every game this season won’t be easy for the Lakers, and while the Jazz have seventeen wins compared to the Lakers eighteen, the talent they have on the floor is better than their record reflects. Gordon Hayward loves to shoot well against the Lakers and makes small plays that give Utah momentum. Hopefully Nash’s playmaking and ability to breakdown a defense will give Utah more than they can handle. Every win for the Lakers has been a scrappy win. It’ll take that kind of play to win against Utah as well.