The Lakers will try to win the back end of a back-to-back.
It does not stop for the Lakers as they’re getting a rematch with the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Remember that this is the same Jazz team that scored 130 points on the Lakers, rendering that Laker defense obsolete.
And it might be an uphill climb. LeBron James will not play due to a bad foot. Neither Patrick Beverley (out for the second game in a row) and Lonnie Walker IV (non-COVID illness) will be available for this game. Anthony Davis is listed as probable, though, as he plays through a sore back.
The defense has not been great the last two games. We mentioned their first game with Utah but Cleveland stomped all over them in the second half on Sunday. We thought the offense was getting better but then they only scored 36 points in that aforementioned second half against the Cavaliers. The Lakers’ three-point shooting was back in the freezer in that game as they only shot 8 for 27 from deep, which is a gnarly .296 percentage.
So falling into a shootout against Utah may not be a great idea. But maybe they’ll have better shot selection with those players out; Walker is shooting under .300 from three while LeBron is only making .210 of his three-pointers. LeBron did have a much better game against the Cavs but his shot selection has been questionable for most of this young season. Still, it’s nearly impossible to replace a future hall-of-famer’s output. But stranger things have happened.
Speaking of strange, Utah is 8-3 after back-to-back victories against the Los Angeles teams. In their first game against the Lakers, Lauri Markkanen went for 27 points and 13 boards. Jordan Clarkson poured 20 against his former team. They also had three more players in double figures (Kelly Olynyk, Collin Sexton, and the always-underrated veteran Mike Conley). What we thought was a tanking team is actually a decent team with a lot of solid players. They play beautiful basketball with lots of passing and fundamentals. You would think this hodgepodge of individuals had been together for a decade now. New coach Will Hardy really deserves credit for getting this team ready every game. They may fall off the playoff picture once teams with better talent figure them out but for now, this is an extremely fun team to watch.
What’s not fun is the Lakers’ performance this season. It might be tough for the Lakers to get out of a 2-7 hole. However, we’ve seen the Lakers be a good team; they just have to be that team now and for the rest of the season to even sniff the play-in. They still have Anthony Davis but he has to be more than a cameo in the second half. He only scored two points in those second halves in each of the last two games. Russell Westbrook might be the only great thing going in the Lakers these days as he’s been fantastic coming off the bench.
Austin Reaves has played okay but he has to be more than okay for the Lakers to win this game. He and Matt Ryan are the only ones shooting threes above league average; the team’s overall three-point shooting sits at an appalling .284. Troy Brown, Jr.’s shooting has gone down but has rebounded the ball well. Kendrick Nunn has to do more than be a tree bark. He started Sunday’s game but did nothing of note other than that first pass to Davis to open the contest.
I’ve heard the noise of the Lakers not playing any team under .500 as of yet. It’s true that the schedule hasn’t done the team any favors. But every team goes through this and they can only play the teams in front of them. Also, it’s not like the Warriors and the Clippers are doing well at the moment. And who knew that the Jazz would be 8-3 at this juncture? The Lakers should worry about how they play. Take care of the ball, rebound better, put the ball in the basket (I really mean this), and get back to that vaunted defense we know they could do. Just play better and the results usually take care of themselves.
And right now, the Lakers are not playing great. That’s why they’re 2-7. It’s not the schedule’s fault.
Now let’s see how this team does without LeBron and two other regular starters. And let’s see how these Lakers do against all that Jazz.