Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Time: Wednesday, November 7th, 9 p.m. ET
Betting Line: N/A as of 11/6/12 at 2:50 a.m. ET
Injuries: Steve Nash (fractured fibula)
Key Storyline: One Postseason Hopeful is Going 1-4
Much has been made of the Los Angeles Lakers' 1-3 start, and rightfully so. The superteam of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol has fallen short of expectations, failing to produce on either end to the level expected of them.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the team secured their first win of the season with a 108-79 blowout of the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately, they did so without Nash.
They might have to win without Nash for quite some time. He has a small fracture in his left fibula (via ESPN Los Angeles).
On the other side of the equation, the Utah Jazz are coming off of a 2011-12 season in which they surprised the world by making the postseason. One year later, the team returns the same frontcourt core and has added additional perimeter pieces.
Through four games, however, the Jazz have fallen to the very teams they're expected to call peers come the postseason.
Thus far, the Jazz have suffered losses to the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets. Although the Hornets are not necessarily a postseason pick, both the Spurs and Grizzlies expect to be in the playoffs.
If the Jazz can't defeat those opponents, where will they be come the postseason?
Key Matchup: Dwight Howard vs. Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson may just be the most underrated player in the NBA. Over the past five seasons, Jefferson has posted averages of 19.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.9 offensive rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
In other words, Jefferson has been as close to elite as any big man in the NBA.
Nevertheless, he's consistently overlooked in the All-Star conversation. Whether that's a product of his playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves or Utah Jazz or simply a result of his fundamentals over flash style, Jefferson has been forgotten.
If facing Dwight Howard is not your proverbial launching pad, what is?
Howard is coming off of a performance in which he put up 28 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals on 12-of-14 shooting. He was a key piece of the Lakers' 108-79 victory against the Pistons, which leads one to the believe that he'll be looking to continue his offensive production against the Jazz.
If the Jazz hope to pull off the victory, their best bet is to slow down D-12. If they are to do that, it's all on Mr. Jefferson.
X-Factor: Antawn Jamison, Los Angeles Lakers
In 2012, Antawn Jamison put up 17.2 points per game on an average of 16.1 shots per contest. Although he only shot 40.3 percent from the floor, Jamison further established himself as one of the smoothest shooting forwards in the NBA.
With that being said, he has been absolutely horrendous through four games with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jamison has averaged just 3.0 shots per game thus far, which trumps his efficient 4.3 rebounds in 16.8 minutes. After all, what's the purpose of being signed for your scoring prowess when you're not even scoring?
Jamison was brought in to provide points to an otherwise weak second unit. If he's not going to lead the reserves with his scoring, can the Lakers really trust Jodie Meeks to step up and do so?
The Lakers' game against the Jazz will be a telling tale of what Mike Brown plans to do with his Sixth Man.
Who will win?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz are two teams with similar expectations and equally as disastrous early season results. Both are on the brink of 1-4 starts, which would place a serious wall between their aspirations and realities.
Fortunately for one team, 2-3 doesn't seem so bad. Unfortunately for one team, said record is only possible for one and not the other.
Let the confusion end. The Lakers are going to win this one.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are going to counter any production that the trio of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors put forth. The hope is that Antawn Jamison can serve as a form of separation.
Even if he doesn't, look for Kobe Bryant to step up and teach Gordon Hayward, Randy Foye and Alec Burks what taking over is all about. For those who believe he won't, evaluate how Bryant is currently averaging 26.8 points with a slash line of .597/.529/.947.
Keep in mind, the 33-year-old Kobe Bryant put up 40 points against the Utah Jazz. Who says the 34-year-old version can't repeat the feat?
Look for Kobe to provide the late-game heroics we all know he's capable of, providing breathing room for the Lakers in a defensive struggle.
Los Angeles Lakers 92, Utah Jazz 83
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