Lakers face Utah Jazz before NBA All-Star break

The Lakers and Jazz each have a win against each other this season.

The Lakers are 29-26 with one more game before NBA All-Star Weekend. Coming off a relatively easy victory over the Pistons at home, the Lakers will be in Utah on Wednesday night as they go against the Jazz, who are actually not that far behind in the standings at 26-28.

L.A. and Utah have faced each other twice in the regular season. On Nov. 21st, the Lakers obliterated the Jazz, 131-99, to advance to the quarterfinals of the In-Season Tournament. That was also the same game that LeBron James reached 39,000 career points to further his lead as the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. On Jan. 13th, Utah won by 7 to get revenge. But it was also a bit of an eye-opening game as D’Angelo Russell broke out for a season-high 39 points. That led to many more shooting performances like that and it ultimately kept Russell on the team instead of being sent elsewhere at the trading deadline. Anthony Davis also got a triple-double on that game.

The Lakers have won 5 of 6 games and are looking a bit hot right now. It’ll be great to go into the all-star break going 6-1 in their last 7.

But the Jazz, as we know, aren’t pushovers. Lauri Markkanen is as dangerous as anyone out there, averaging 23.6 points and 8.5 rebounds while flirting with a 50-40-90 season (that’s 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent on three-pointers, and 90 percent from the free throw line). Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson can put up points in bunches. New 4 man John Collins can get above the rim. They have a nice rookie in Keyonte George. And Walker Kessler is second in the league in blocked shots.

Still, the Jazz aren’t known for locking up teams (25th in defensive rating); they’d rather outscore their opponents (12th in points per game). They will have their nose around missed shots, though (third in rebounding overall and second in rebounding percentage). We emphasize energy all the time with this crop of Lakers. Well, they’re going to have to bring that if they don’t want the ball in their opponents’ hands.

It’s going to be a little rougher for these Lakers. LeBron James is taking a vacation early as he is out for this game. Anthony Davis is questionable as well. But hey, we’ve seen the Lakers work some magic without their stars before; we all remember Boston, right?

Either way, whether they have their stars or not, every game is important as the Lakers have a bit of an uphill climb if they want to make it into the Top 6 playoff teams. And they’ll have to win a lot as teams like Dallas and Golden State (each have won 5 straight as of this writing) are surging in the standings.