April 3, 2018, 6:37 pm
The Lakers (33-43) head to Utah on Tuesday to take on a Jazz (44-33) team that is surging.
The Jazz are fighting for playoff position, completely healthy, and playing some of their best basketball of the season right now — having won 25-of-30 games. They are fresh off a dismantling of the Timberwolves, dispatching them 121-97.
Los Angeles is eliminated from playoff contention and is limping towards the end of the season as they battle a slew of injuries to key players including Lonzo Ball, Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Ingram.
Without their three primary offensive initiators, the Lakers struggled to produce offensively in their last game, an 84-83 loss at the hands of the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers shot just 40 percent from the floor and the 83 points was their second lowest total of the season.
The Lakers are not a strong road team, having lost 5-of-6 games and earning only a 14-25 mark for the season. Utah is a difficult place to play as the Jazz hold a 25-13 record at home.
Julius Randle will have his hands full trying to score against Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the Jazz’ athletic big man duo. Randle is fresh off of snapping a 10-game streak in which he tallied at least 18 points and 10 rebounds — he will struggle to produce efficiently against Utah’s length.
If the Lakers are to succeed, they will need a huge game from rookie Kyle Kuzma, who is averaging 16.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.1 3-pointers per game. His range and developed offensive repertiore will be crucial tonight.
The Jazz have an impressive rookie of their own, 13th overall pick Donovan Mitchell, who leads the Jazz with 20.3 points per game while adding 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals per contest. He is in the midst of a nine-game 20-point streak, a record for Jazz rookies.
He is joined by Ricky Rubio, who is coming off a 23-point, seven-rebound and three-assist outing in their last victory. After starting the season slow, Rubio has found his rhythm, compiling 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 44.0 percent over the last month.
The last line of defense for the Jazz is Rudy Gobert, also known as the Stifle Tower (due to his French nationality, size and prodigious defensive ability). Gobert missed much of the season due to injury but has had a tremendous impact when healthy — it is no surprise that the Jazz are playing their best ball with him in the lineup. His ability to protect the rim, defend the pick and roll and challenge jump shooters is unique and is the key to Utah’s defensive success. He is averaging 13.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this season.
The Lakers will have to pull off a remarkable upset tonight to upend the Jazz in what appears to be an extremely challenging matchup on paper. Los Angeles is an 11-point underdog, a line that appears to be quite apt considering their missing pieces and Utah’s recent play.
-The Lakers continue to struggle from 3-point range (34.2 percent, 29th) and the free throw line (70.8 percent, 30th) — they will need to be unusually effective from those key areas as the Jazz employ their length and size to very effectively guard the paint. Conversely, Utah is actually quite good at shooting from distance (36.5 percent, 11th) and the charity stripe (78.4 percent, ninth).
-The Jazz have a defensive rating of 101.9 (tied for second) for the season, however, they have a stellar 94.7 defensive rating (first, by far) over the last 15 games. During that time frame they also have the NBA’s best net rating at plus 13.2. To put that in perspective, the Lakers’ rating during that same stretch is 0.2 (16th).
-Los Angeles has a significant edge in rebounds per game with 46.4 (second) vs. 43.0 rebounds per game (21st) for Utah. However, the two teams actually record a similar percentage of available rebounds with the Lakers grabbing 50.9 percent (seventh) compared to 50.8 percent (10th) for the Jazz.
-These two teams play a very different style with the Lakers pushing the rate of play as is indicated with their league-leading 102.75 possessions per 48 minutes compared to 97.64 (25th) for the Jazz. It will be hard for the Lakers to control pace without Ball or Ingram in the lineup.
-Los Angeles leads the league with 52.4 points per game in the paint but will have a difficult task in maintaining that production against a Utah team that excels at shutting down the lane, allowing only 41.7 points per game (third).
Projected Starting Lineups
Alex Caruso (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Kyle Kuzma (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Ricky Rubio (PG)
Donovan Mitchell (SG)
Joe Ingles (SF)
Derrick Favors (PF)
Rudy Robert (C)
Brook Lopez (back) – QUESTIONABLE
Lonzo Ball (left knee contusion) – OUT
Brandon Ingram (concussion) – OUT
Luol Deng (ankle) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Time: 6:00 PM PST, 9:00 PM EST
Television: AT&T SPORTSNET – ROCKY MOUNTAIN, SPECSN/SPECD
Radio: 97.5 FM, 1280 AM THE ZONE, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES
April 20, 2019, 12:48 amRussell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook out dueled Damian Lillard on Friday as he notched a double-double with 33 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, four triples and one block as the Thunder beat the Blazers 120-108.
The four threes were a welcome sight for Westbrook who described his play in this series prior to Friday night as "unacceptable." After being highly inefficient in the first two games, Westbrook shot 11-for-22 as he hit shot after shot in the fourth quarter to ice the win down the stretch. Oklahoma City will hope for more of the same as they look to even the series on Sunday.
April 20, 2019, 12:40 amPaul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul George labored through a 3-for-16 shooting night to score 22 points (14-for-17 from the free throw line), six assists, six rebounds and two threes on Friday.
Friday's game marked the second time in three games that George has struggled with his shot, adding to the speculation that his right shoulder injury is holding him back. Fortunately for Oklahoma City, he stayed aggressive attacking the basket and was able to chip in 14 points from the charity stripe as well as his customary lockdown defense down the stretch.
April 20, 2019, 12:36 amJerami Grant - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Jerami Grant scored a playoff career-high 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting also contributing four threes and two blocks in Friday's win over the Blazers.
Grant caught fire at the perfect time as the shooting woes that plagued Oklahoma City in the first two games disappeared on Friday night. He was one of five teammates to make two or more threes as Oklahoma City was able to cruise to a victory.
April 20, 2019, 12:32 amDennis Schroder - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Dennis Schroder logged 32 minutes with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, two triples and two steals on Friday night.
Shroder and the Oklahoma City guards were able to exploit Enes Kanter routinely in this one as the steady diet of points ultimately led to them notching their first win of the season. This group is much more confident at home – look for the same intensity as they attempt to even the series at two games apiece on Sunday night.
April 20, 2019, 12:27 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard had 32 points, six assists, three triples and two steals as the Blazers fell to the Thunder by a score of 108-120 on Friday night.
Lillard went back and forth with Russell Westbrook all night as the home team once again prevailed in this series. The animosity between these two makes for very entertaining competition. Expect Lillard to come out firing on Sunday as Portland has another opportunity to steal one on the road.
April 20, 2019, 12:19 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum did a little of everything on Friday night with 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five threes and one steal.
After missing the end of the season for Portland with a left knee injury, McCollum is consistently posting huge lines in the playoffs.McCollum's play is a big reason why Portland is leading 2-1 in this series. Look for another strong night on Sunday in Game 4.
April 20, 2019, 12:12 amEnes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers
Enes Kanter scored 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting while adding five rebounds on Friday night.
Kanter had a good night scoring the basketball, despite a nagging right hand injury. Unfortunately for Portland, any good done by his offensive performance was undone on the defensive end as he was frequently targeted by the Oklahoma City offense and failed to offer much resistance.
April 19, 2019, 11:43 pmKyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics
Kyrie Irivng contributed 19 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, three threes, one steal and one block in Friday's 104-96 victory in Indiana.
Irving has been sensational so far in the playoffs for Boston looking locked in and focused on setting up his teammates as he's notched at least seven assists in every game so far. After a season that led many to question his loyalty to this team it's good to see Irving step up and lead Boston.
April 19, 2019, 11:38 pmJaylen Brown - F - Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown was a man possessed Friday night as he scored 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting adding seven rebounds, four threes and one block.
Indiana had no answer for the third-year swingman who got whatever he wanted and finally took advantage of his opportunity to start for the injured Marcus Smart. Brad Stevens remained patient after Brown struggled in the first two games of the series and was rewarded with a big night as Boston looks to sweep Indiana on Sunday.
April 19, 2019, 11:31 pmAl Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics
Al Horford had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three threes, one steal and one block on Friday night.
Horford continues to provide Boston with a little bit of everything they need to win as evidenced by his plus-13, which was tied for a team-best mark. After struggling a bit in Game 2 as he shook off an illness, this statistical output was more in line with what we're used to seeing.