Here is what you need to know before the Lakers pay a visit to the Utah Jazz.
1) The second unit is hitting its stride
The Lakers have some firepower off the pine, as opponents have seen when Julius Randle, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma check into the game.
Of the six most successful three-man lineups that the Lakers have used this year (in terms of plus/minus), four feature Randle, four include Hart and three have Kuzma.
When all three are on the floor together, the Lakers have outscored their opponents by 20 in 39 minutes.
Randle has made the paint a miserable spot for opposing defenders, scoring double figures in three straight, averaging 13.3 points on a silly 16-of-21 clip from the field.
Speaking of efficiency, Hart has impressed on both sides of the floor. He doesn’t need many shots to be effective offensively, but he cashes them when they come to him, with a 7-of-10 mark to start the year. And defensively he has shown capable against all-stars, as he guarded DeMar DeRozan well last night and had some successful switches onto DeMarcus Cousins the game before.
And then there is Kuzma, who continues to show scoring abilities beyond his years. The rookie was excellent last game, hitting the 15-point mark for the fourth straight night and picking up his first career double-double. He did so with a variety of techniques, including cutting from the weak side, spotting up on the perimeter and tapping back misses.
2) The starters could use some scoring
Friday’s game was much murkier for the starting five, which couldn’t find a rhythm in the loss to the Raptors.
Brandon Ingram (nine points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two) had trouble getting involved. And Brook Lopez had a nice 11-point, three-block first half but scored just two points after.
Look for point guard Lonzo ball to try to open up the offense a bit more, although he has struggled with his own shot, hitting just 7-of-31 over his last three games, including 1-of-14 on 3-pointers.
That latter mark is something the Lakers could use a boost from, as their 28.7 team 3-point percentage is currently second-lowest in the league.
Lopez and Caldwell-Pope have proven to be attention-worthy shooters, but the Lakers will need Ball and Ingram to be more consistent from outside in order to open up the team’s spacing.
3) It doesn’t get much better than Utah’s defense
Unfortunately for the purple and gold, their offense won’t be getting any breaks against the suffocating play of the Jazz.
Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Rudy Gobert has proven himself the league’s best rim protector thanks to excellent timing and a 7-foot-9 wingspan that’s ridiculous even for a behemoth like himself.
And the Lakers will still have a challenge in the paint when Gobert hits the bench. Former lottery pick Ekpe Udoh is back in the NBA and has been great so far. While he’s largely anonymous on offense, he’s the star on the other side of the floor. He’s averaging only 14.4 minutes, but ranks third in the NBA in blocks with 2.4 per game.
Add in Utah’s purposefully tortoise-like pace and a ball-hawking point guard like Ricky Rubio, and the Lakers will have a challenge to spur their up-and-running offense against this team.
Jazz: Dante Exum (separated left shoulder) is out.
Tip-Off: 6 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena — Salt Lake City, Utah
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